When I was a teenager, this film had the reputation of being so fucked up that it’s taken me thirty years to press play. I started #31DaysofHorror in 2018, and each year I’ve looked at the cover art and thought, nah, maybe next time. It’s smaller, more amusing, and cheaper looking than I expected, a celebration of creativity under constraints. There are only a handful of interior locations and a series of increasingly impressive gore effects.
It’s a version of Frankenstein, a subject clearly dear to Stuart Gordon’s heart since there are similar mad scientists and abused creatures in other films he’s made. Barbara Crampton as Megan commits wholeheartedly to Gordon’s camp vision and makes some courageous decisions (if you‘ve seen the ending you know what I mean). Jeffrey Combs is comically psychopathic as Herbert West, the lodger-scientist with an ever-present syringe full of neon green liquid.
All the men are awful, especially the lecherous Dr Hill with his crush on Megan, and Megan’s controlling father, who’s also the Dean of the medical school. As bad as Herbert is, at least he’s straightforward. Even the initially sympathetic Dan, Megan’s boyfriend, isn’t immune to ambition. Put down the syringe and step away, boys.