RICHARDSON – On the eve of their appearance at the horror convention Texas Frightmare Weekend last Thursday, the cast of the 1985 horror classic Re-Animator stopped by the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson. Actors Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott and sequel starlet Kathleen Kinmont (Bride of Re-Animator) joined a packed house of horror junkies for a pre-screening Q&A, moderated by Shock Waves podcast co-host and filmmaker Ryan Turek (2018’s Halloween).
In addition to getting to see the stars in the flesh and catch Re-Animator on the big screen, attendees had access to exclusive Texas Frightmare Weekend items produced by Austin-based collectibles company Mondo, including A Nightmare on Elm Street poster designed by Gary Pullin, Freddy Krueger sweaters, pins and much more. (Visit mondotees.com for any leftover products.)
But, of course, the main course of the evening was Re-Animator – a movie about a pair of medical students experimenting on the dead to find the secret of how to successfully bring them back to life.
Once ticket holders were ushered to their seats, Drafthouse Creative Manager and Programmer James Wallace (also a University of North Texas alumnus) shared some exciting news. Not only would everyone be spending the next half hour with the film’s talent, but they would be rewinding the clock to the good ol’ days by showing a 35mm print – complete with cigarette burns, film scratches and transitions that make the film feel like it fell off the reel entirely. For a horror movie, this is the complete experience to chase. It celebrates the genre and reminds you of what made you fall in love with it in the first place.
After Wallace passed the mic to Turek, the Shock Waves co-host briefly talked about what makes Re-Animator such a unique film. He called it his “security blanket film,” a movie he can throw on when “it’s rainy or cold and [he’s] feeling lonely.” The description was followed by a warm applause, especially when Turek mentioned that his other security blanket film is 1985’s Return of the Living Dead.
Turek introduced the cast members one by one, starting with Kinmont, who also dished details about working on 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. But the audience erupted into laughter when Combs joined the panel and poked fun at Turek for calling Re-Animator his security blanket film.
“There’s nothing secure about Re-Animator,” Combs joked.
Turek sarcastically responded by telling Combs he “gets warm feelings seeing [the cat in the film] get thrown around.”
Turek is, of course, talking about the iconic cat resurrection scene where Combs’ character, Herbert West, reanimates his roommate’s dead cat, proving that his discoveries of bringing back the dead are valid.
Combs shared how they filmed that scene using movie magic, ensuring that no cats were harmed: “It is sound effects, swinging lights, actors hitting random places around the room – there’s no cat!”
Turek delved into the film’s impact on culture by bringing up how Re-Animator has been referenced in mainstream cinema, including American Beauty, The Simpsons and 2017’s Life. He asked the panel what quality they think audiences respond to the most.
“The goo, the blood, the passion, the death of creation and being able to control life,” Kinmont replied.
“We’re dealing with impossible things. To defeat death is something humankind has grappled with since the cave. It’s just a great treatment of that. We prevail, well, sort of. The work continues because no one ever comes out right when they return from the dead,” Combs added.
Each of the cast members discussed their relationship to the material, how they came to know it, their rehearsal process (and how they weren’t paid for it and did it for the sheer love of the game), and the impact it had on their lives since being a part of the project.
But Combs encapsulated the evening quite well when he told audiences what makes watching a retro screening such an exclusive experience.
“There’s some alchemy that [director Stuart Gordon] achieved with this movie. Most of the time when you go to the movies it’s a passive existence: You’re watching it, it’s happening and you’re on your own. It’s hard to make movies this group experience compared to the theater. But there are instances in Re-Animator that transcend that, and it has that group experience quality. It’s tough to do. So, it’s always best to see this movie in a dark and filled theater,” Combs said.
After a 40-minute Q&A, which concluded with Combs doing a spot-on impression of President Donald Trump, the film started.
About a quarter of the crowd was revealed to have never seen the film after Combs asked newbies to raise their hands, but it further cemented Re-Animator’s specialness when many of those new audiences were young adults and children watching it with their parents. One father was watching the film with his teenage daughter.
Alamo Drafthouse recognizes the power of the theatrical experience, and how rewarding it is to share a film with a loved one for the first time.
Now, how can you not be romantic about cinema?
For all information on the Alamo Drafthouse’s future screenings, visit drafthouse.com. Also, be sure to follow them on social media to learn about their upcoming events before tickets are made available.