Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1947) was an early twentieth century horror writer with a dark and unique vision. In his stories humanity was usually treated at best like a pawn in the cosmic game and a dust speck at worst, with a race of elder gods called The Old Ones threatening to return and possess the earth once again. Try to imagine repo men who are several stories tall with lots of tentacles and working on a cosmic scale. Much of his work was published in Weird Tales and other fiction magazines of the period, but his readership was limited during his relatively short lifetime. Posthumous reprints of Lovecraft's fiction eventually garnered him a larger audience, but his work has been notoriously difficult to capture on film. That hasn't stopped filmmakers from trying, though.
When Fangoria magazine first printed a feature article about Re-animator prior to the film's release, they described it as a "moist zombie film." With all the blood and internal organs flying around, to say nothing of that pan full of blood in which Herbert West was keeping Dr. Hill's severed head alive, I find it hard to argue with the accuracy of the statement. This was the first of several Lovecraft adaptations from director Stuart Gordon, and probably his best. Everybody's got a roommate from hell story, but you'd be hard pressed to top Dan Cain's (Bruce Abbott) after he lets Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) move in with him. Both are med students at Miskatonic University, an institution that pops up many times in Lovecraft's work. West has just returned from Austria where he was working on a process of reanimating the dead. West and Miskatonic's Dr. Hill (David Gale) take an immediate dislike to one another, resulting in the good Doctor quite literally losing his head. The scenes of a reanimated Hill toting around his own severed noggin are not always convincing, but they're hard to forget. The film strays pretty far from the source material in both the details and the use of humor (if Lovecraft himself had a sense of humor, I don't recall ever seeing it on display in his fiction), but this remains one of the greatest horror films of all time.