Studious hard worker Dan Cain and dangerous maniac Herbert West are reluctant housemates who become unlikely colleagues after the latter’s deranged experiments in re-animation get both of them expelled from medical school. Desperate to vindicate themselves the pair team up to try to replicate in humans results so far only achieved in animals with horrifically successful results.
This is only possible due to a really lax morgue setup and generally poor hospital organisation. The security guard assigned to the morgue would much rather read porn than actually guard the morgue and doesn’t seem to get any more vigilant after a couple of serious assaults (actually murders but he doesn’t know that!) occur on his watch.
Mild spoilers ahead.
Dan is the typical leading man. He’s smart, principled, reasonably buff and he loves animals. He is a devoted pupil of Dr Hill. He also has a bit of a risqué side; he’s sleeping with the dean’s daughter (even though they aren’t married!) and keeps their relationship completely secret from the dean.
Herbert transfers in from Zurich after his previous professor dies in suspicious circumstances. He is immediately antagonistic to his classmates and to Dr Hill, openly calling him out of date, a plagiarist and a fraud. After moving in with Dan, Herbert conducts strange experiments in the basement, culminating in the death and resurrection and death again of Dan’s pet cat. It seems that Herbert has developed a method to bring dead things to life but the results are unpredictable to say the least.
Creepy doctor Carl Hill starts off as the sensible authority figure but soon reveals his more disturbing side once re-animated humans start cropping up. He has a one way mirror into a padded cell in his office and keeps hitting on his patient’s daughter. He also seems to have developed some kind of Jedi mind control which he can use on living and re-animated humans. He is initially dismissive of West’s work but once it has been proven to work Hill wants it for himself and will stop at nothing to get it. He is also very keen to steal Dan’s girl. All plagiarists should share his eventual fate.
Dan’s girlfriend Megan is also the object of Dr Hill’s misguided affections and also just happens to be the daughter of the dean (the one who expelled our two unlikely heroes). She appears to be included purely to get naked and to scream when anything scary or disgusting happens. Unfortunately her character is never really allowed to develop beyond being a damsel in distress or an object for male characters to lust over. When she does take the initiative and tries to do something on her own she always needs rescuing by a man within seconds. It is quite fitting I suppose that a naked Megan distracts the evil Dr Hill for just long enough for the other 2 men to foil his plan and her scream is the last thing you hear as the movie fades to black.
This film is full of medical procedures designed more for gross out value than any kind of scientific purpose although some brief scenes in the anatomy classes seem to be pretty realistic. The effects are really well done though and if you appreciate plenty of fake blood and body parts strewn around the scenes of your horror movies then the final third of this one will definitely leave you satisfied. Sets and effects are realistically rough and tattered and the blood oozes delightfully where lesser films would spray it around like cheap champagne.
There is also plenty of silliness here with things like re-animated characters carrying their severed heads around like lanterns. It was fun to spot all the different places where the head could be put down on a flat surface or framed so that nothing below the neck was visible to allow them to use a real actor instead of a rubber model. Things get increasingly silly towards the climax but that is exactly what we are hoping for with this movie right? I know I was and I wasn’t disappointed.