I tend to pride myself on having seen perhaps more films over the last 20 odd years than is good for my health, but somehow I had only managed to see bits and pieces of this supposed cult classic, until just recently. A straight-laced med student (Bruce Abbott) with hopes of marrying the daughter (Barbara Crampton) of the Dean gets mixed up with bizarre, egotistical, and generally unpleasant colleague Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who has apparently worked out a formula for bringing the dead back to life. David Gale is uproarious as a Christopher Lee-like pompous doctor who has his eyes on Crampton and who despises West.
There is no doubting that this incredibly gory dark comedy-horror from Stuart Gordon (count me as one of the only fans of 'Fortress' and 'Castle Freak') is pretty much right up my alley. I quite liked it, but I'll admit to liking 'Ghosts of Mars' and 'Deadly Friend' as well, and I'm not about to call either of those comparable to the workes of Welles, Mizoguchi, and Antonioni. It's a fiendishly fun B movie, no more, no less, and probably only slightly better than most others, thanks mostly to Gordon's expert direction. Maybe I've seen too many films already, or maybe my expectations have become too high over the years. Or maybe I just needed to sit back, watch the mayhem, and not analyse every damn thing. It's fun, and that's all that matters. Combs is terrific as the rude, pompous West, but David Gale steals it as the slimeball mad doctor who pretty much loses his head when daring to steal from West. Crampton is certainly a good sport given the horrors the poor lass has to endure, but Abbott is a tad dull in the lead.
Unfortunately, a little bit of the fun was ruined for me by the atrociously derivative Richard Band music score which shamelessly copies Bernard Herrmann's work on 'Psycho'. In the years since this film, no doubt Band would have heard some of Danny Elfman's work and realised you can pay homage to some of the great composers and films without outrightly pinching from them.
The film is clearly not for the squeamish, and probably not for sensitive cat owners (a great scene, which I dare not spoil), but the gore, whilst not exactly bad, is a little hard to take too seriously, it, like the film, is pretty silly.
Not the best or worst film of its type, but it's MY type of film in many ways. A wild, sometimes very amusing film, with at least one unforgettable 'visual pun'. Definitely an acquired taste.