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Script to Pieces: House of Re-Animator

Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.

The Re-Animator series tends to get overlooked. Yes, the first is an absolute cult classic, but Bride brings back Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott and at least some of the great chemistry they had in the original. Beyond Re-Animator at least brought back Combs, who continued to nail the role, although the movie was a bit of a let down overall.

Both sequels were directed by Brian Yuzna, who produced the film alongside original director Stuart Gordon. Gordon had nearly returned to direct Bride of Re-Animator, but ultimately went on to do other things. Ironically, although both the original and Bride end with Herbert West apparently meeting his end, Beyond shows him walking off into the night unharmed—and yet that one was never followed up with a sequel.

Hill gets the drop on West in Re-Animator

While we have never received a fourth entry in the franchise, that’s not for lack of trying. In the mid-2000s, Stuart Gordon announced he would be returning to the franchise with a new film, House of Re-Animator. A direct commentary on the Bush administration, House would have reunited Jeffrey Combs with original co-star Bruce Abbott. Even more surprising, the cast would also have included William H. Macy as the President of the United States.

The plot would have essentially dealt with the U.S. government calling in Herbert West and Dan Cain to reanimate the Commander-in-Chief after his unexpected death.

This film would have not only been a timely horror-comedy, but a reunion of many of the people who made the original film work so well. In addition to Gordon, Combs and Abbot, the script had been written by original scribe Dennis Paoli and Brian Yuzna would have returned to produce. For fans of the cult classic series, it would have been a dream come true.

Herbert West from 1985's Re-Animator.So why did it never happen?

Well, the production company Halycon Pictures was nervous that the political satire would be taken the wrong way. But while that may have slowed them getting funding, it didn’t stop Gordon and company from trying to get the movie made. According to Gordon, the problem was that by the time it was looking like the film might actually get made, we already had a new president. The satire would have been null and void by the time the movie came out.

Interestingly, this was not the first time Gordon had toyed with the very specific idea of Herbert West being called in to reanimate the president. His original treatment for Bride of Re-Animator would have done the same thing, only with Ronald Regan instead. That idea also included the White House basement being stocked with dead celebrities and JFK’s preserved brain.

Other unmade Re-Animator ideas have included Yuzna’s own alternate fourth entry, which would have been titled Island of Re-Animator and would have taken heavy influence from The Island of Dr. Moreau. That absolutely sounds like a Brian Yuzna movie and admittedly would have been interesting, but nothing tops the appeal of Gordon’s return to the series with absurd political satire.

Bride of Re-AnimatorAt the moment, we might be kind of getting a new film with Re-Animator: Evolution. I say that because it’s not remotely connected to the preceding films. It doesn’t star Jeffrey Combs or have anything to do with that series and the way the character was portrayed. It can’t even be called a remake. So what is it? Well, being an H.P. Lovecraft character, Herbert West is technically in the public domain. If you raised the proper funds, you could make a Re-Animator movie too.

Ideally, I’d still like to hold out hope that we could someday see Jeffrey Combs put on the glasses and pick up the needle to play West one more time, although that seems unlikely. Given the current political climate, however, I think it would only make sense for Gordon and the gang to reanimate this long-dead project and give it one more shot.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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