Wednesday, March 26, 2008


From the depths of shot-on-video obscurity surfaces REANIMATOR ACADEMY, a 1992 feature from the late, unlamented Cinema Home Video, who spawned oodles of crappy horror tapes in the early nineties, each with the shelf life of a Hostess Pudding Pie. This one, directed by Judith Priest (in all likelihood a pseudonym for executive producer David DeCoteau), attempts to recreate Stuart Gordon's classic on a hundred-dollar budget, filtering it through a sub-PORKY's college/party flick sensibility. The resulting film, unsurprisingly, is a certified disaster.

Jeffrey Combs-lookalike Edgar Allan Lovecraft (puh-leeze!) is a member of the Delta Epsilon Delta frat house (that's DED, by the way, as in Ded Heads, the nickname for all the frat brothers). Instead of explaining how a labcoat-wearing nerd got into the party-heartiest frat on campus--an initiation that had to've made collegiate history, no doubt--Edgar develops a reanimation serum that he uses on the decapitated head of a car accident victim, transforming it into a barely-articulate dummy named Fred the Head. A stand-up comedian before he died--get it? A stand-up comic who can't stand up! Ha!--Fred's a huge hit at the frat parties, knockin' 'em dead with his barrage of sub-vaudevillian one-liners. (Now, fraternities are not especially well known for their refined senses of humor, but I doubt even they would enjoy Fred's cornball jokes.) But the fun comes to an abrupt halt when a pair of cartoonish gangsters recruit Edgar against his will to revive the corpse of their favorite working girl, Hot Lips.

As I'm sure you can tell, REANIMATOR ACADEMY is anemic and ludicrous, a film that's almost funny in its unfunnyness. Yet despite its dimestore production values and slapdash direction, there's something vaguely engaging about it. Not in a so-bad-it's-good way, but more from a fascination that a movie can be this monumentally terrible and still be watchable. The humor, lousy as it often is, is relatively harmless, braindead trifle that doesn't take itself seriously; though when Edgar reanimates Hot Lips she suffers from Shrew Syndrome, a condition that turns any undead female into a raving, screeching bitch. Equally unfunny as the rest of the picture, this running gag has a faint whiff of misogyny that makes the last half rather unpleasant and stamps out the tiny iota of fun it has going for it. Shifting into a FRANKENHOOKER steal, Hot Lips embarks on a penny-saver killing spree, decapitating every man(nequin) that crosses her path.

Obviously, there's very little about REANIMATOR ACADEMY worth recommending (how can you, with a film so cheap its end credits are a reprise of the opening titles?), but I do want to point out Benton Jennings as the dimwitted mob henchman; a glimmer of acting talent shines through the crappy material he 's forced to work with, and the fact that he went on to a decent career in Hollywood proves that handheld video garbage isn't always a career black hole.

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