Sunday, March 31, 2013


The third and final installment of Stuart Gordon appreciation week,
catch up on Re-Animator HERE
and From Beyond HERE,
if you missed them.

Up until now, I had never seen Dolls (1987) before and I'm not sure why.  I've seen it on the shelves at the video store for years, I'm aware of who made it, and what the premise was. . .but maybe that's the problem.  Personally, I'm not a big fan of the killer doll/puppet sub-genre of horror films.  I know they have their fans and supporters, etc., but for me creepy dolls work better when they are just part of a film, like the clown doll in Poltergeist (1982) or that mannequin in Deep Red (1975) or that creepy fucker in that one Spanish movie I saw that one time (Satan's Blood [1978]), rather than when they're the main villain or threat.  Movies like Child's Play (1988) or Puppetmaster (1989) have decent concepts, but they seem to stumble in execution.  The base concept of a killer doll is scary, but in practice I usually find myself wondering why anybody would run from a little thing like that and just not, you know, kick it away and smash it or whatever.  I mean, it's little, it can't have that much body strength.  I guess Dolls goes a little way in covering this by having an army of killer toys running around.  Harder to squish when there's dozens of them.  Of course, maybe I'm over-thinking the legitimacies of a concept involving dolls that happen to be living...

Let's talk about the movie instead.
Dolls has a classic horror movie opening, where a family is traveling the countryside and they get caught in a rain storm, the kind of storm in horror movies that forces people to pull over (in this case, the car gets stuck) and spend the night at a stranger's house.  Young Judy (Carrie Lorraine) is on a trip with her father David (Ian Patrick Williams) and evil stepmother Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon), when they find themselves in this scenario and they seek refuge in a creepy old, gothic mansion, yet another convention of horror movies.  The occupants of the old mansion are an elderly couple, Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason), who greet their unexpected visitors kindly, especially Judy.  They are joined by yet another group of stranded travelers, who literally barge into the house, consisting of good-hearted doofus Ralph (Stephen Lee) and the two British punk rocker girls, Isabel (Bunty Bailey) and Enid (Cassie Stuart), that he picked up hitchhiking.

The house is populated by a bounty of (you guessed it) dolls, most of them those weird porcelain type dolls that you'd see at flea-markets or at your grandmother's.  Judy and Ralph take an interest in them, Judy because she's a little girl, Ralph because he seems to be "young at heart," as they say.  Everyone else seems to go out of their way to be unpleasant and obnoxious.  Judy's dad is a real jerk who is a bit of a gold digger and treats Judy as if she's a burden.  His new bride Rosemary is one of those snide, fashionable bitches, who bluntly states that they "could be in Monte Carlo now, if it wasn't for the twerp."  The punk rock girls aren't much better, revealing themselves to be thieves, first planning on robbing Ralph, then stealing some of the antiques (or "ann-tikis") from the mansion.  This leads to their undoing, as the dolls seem to be vindictive against anybody without a kind or innocent spirit (which is why Judy and Ralph are safe, more or less).
The dolls use weapons, like knives and hammers, and they also have sharp little razor teeth.  There's even a set of toy soldiers that have working rifles!  The special effects are a combination of puppetry and mechanical effects with the occasional bit of stop motion work.  When not seen, the dolls can be heard skittering and scurrying about on the floor making little chattering, squeaky noises, which I found annoying rather than creepy.

The effects are sometimes goofy looking, but the murders are entertaining and clever enough, with a couple cool transformation scenes.  Rosemary's death and the discovery of her body is a particularly gruesome scene, as is the Teddy attack scene, which is one of best in the movie, even though it doesn't really happen.

After the family's car gets stuck and they're walking to the creepy mansion, Rosemary pulls a bitch move on Judy and throws her teddy bear (Teddy) out into the woods, saying that it'll just "slow her down."  Judy has an overactive imagination, and she imagines Teddy emerging from the woods, the size of a real bear, and he sheds off his teddy bear skin, revealing a terrifying bear monster underneath.  Teddy then proceeds to maul dad and rip Rosemary's arm off.  When done, Judy just shakes her head and says, "oh, Teddy," and then Teddy just shrugs his shoulders.  It's kind of a funny idea, this kid having such violent daydreams, and I like the image of a teddy bear that turns into a giant monster better than I do killer dolls running around all over the place.  A character called "Grizzly Teddy" in the movie Demonic Toys (1992, also produced by Charles Band) seems to be directly inspired by Teddy.
The plot to Dolls is bare bones, the running time a brisk 77 minutes, and the ending a little anti-climatic and unsatisfying.  Ralph and Judy wake up from being knocked out and Gabriel tells them it was all just a dream.  He reads them a letter from Judy's dad saying that they've left and that she should go back and live with her mother back in the city.  Ralph asks about the hitchhikers and Gabriel quickly adds, "oh yeah, and we dropped off the hitchhikers," before throwing the note into the fire.  Ralph and Judy then drive off, Judy having ideas that Ralph will marry her mother.  It's an abrupt ending, almost childlike in its simplistically, like a fairy tale.  Supposedly at one time Stuart Gordon had a notion of doing a sequel, involving the dolls in the city, but it never came to fruition.

The acting in Dolls is a mixed bag, the punk rock girls being the worst of the bunch.  In general, everyone seems to go BIG and broad with their performances, but given the fairy tale-like nature of the story, this might be excusable.  The movie has a very knowing sense of humor, fully aware of what kind of story this is.  At one point, Ralph is simultaneously mistaken for a murderer by Enid and a pervert by Judy's dad.  Later, when Judy's father calls Hilary a witch, meaning it as a slur, she replies to Gabriel, "he's figured it out."
Judy's dad David is quite the jerk and he gets quite the comeuppance at films end in the movie's best surprise.  Ian Patrick Williams was a member of Stuart Gordon's theater company in Chicago, Illinois.  He would have a small role in Re-Animator as a Swiss doctor, and would also star in Robot Jox (1989) and King of the Ants (2003), as well as the cult favorite horror flick TerrorVision (1986).  He's also done a lot of guest star work on TV, everything from Seinfeld and ER to Dexter and Modern Family.

Carolyn Purdy-Gordon is one of the more enjoyable aspects of this movie, just oozing a despicable nature.  She plays a cold bitch rather well and Stuart Gordon usually finds a place for her in his movies somewhere.  She has starred in eight of her husband's thirteen films, usually (but not always) getting killed off in some grizzly manner.  For some reason, she wears a head wrap constantly during Dolls.
Carrie Lorraine as little Judy is a decent child actress, balancing that line of cute innocence and annoying platitudes.  Lorraine would not pursue an acting career after Dolls and today she is a lawyer for criminal defense in Los Angeles.

Ralph is maybe the most enjoyable character in the movie, just a kind hearted goof.  Stephen Lee would return to star in Gordon's The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), and would also have small roles in WarGames (1983) and Robocop 2 (1990).  He would also portray the Big Bopper in La Bamba (1987).
Guy Rolfe brings a certain pleasant creepiness to Gabriel the weird old toy maker, giving him a niceness, despite his wicked tendencies.  In addition to playing the title character in William Castle's Mr. Sardonicus (1961), Guy Rolfe would play another master of puppets, Andre Toulon, in Puppet Master III-V (1991/93/94), as well as reprising the role in Retro Puppet Master (1999), which I bet you didn't even know existed.
Old lady alert:  Hilary Mason was the blind psychic woman in Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (1973).
Total 80s alert:  Bunty Bailey, who played punker Isabel, was in Ah-ha's classic music video for "Take On Me."  Her grizzly fate in Dolls is (kinda) portrayed on the video cover.
Dolls was actually filmed directly after Re-Animator, but not released until two years later, after From Beyond, due to the post-production time on the stop motion animation effects.  Made in Italy, it has a much more Italian feel than From Beyond does (which was also filmed in Italy, using some of the same sets).  Returning crew members from previous Stuart Gordon films include cinematographer Mac Ahlberg, editor Lee Percy, producer Brian Yuzna, and special effects maestro John Carl Buechler.

The writer of the film is Ed Naha, who wrote Troll (1986), C.H.U.D. II (1989), and Dollman (1991), and also co-scripted Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), based on a story by himself, Stuart Gordon, and Brian Yuzna.  Interestingly enough, his most recent screenplay credits are for new religious epics The Ten Commandments (2007) and Noah's Ark: A New Beginning (2012).

Executive producer Charles Band's studio Empire Pictures would eventually collapse due to massive debt a couple years after the release of Dolls.  Band would move from Rome back the The States and open a new studio, Full Moon Entertainment, where he would produce and release a slew of direct to video trash, such as the Subspecies movies, the Trancers sequels (the original being an Empire release), and the Puppet Master and Demonic Toys franchises, those later two being directly inspired by Dolls.
This is the weakest of Stuart Gordon's early horror films, but Dolls is light entertainment and there's some fun to be had, if you think this would be your kind of thing.  After Dolls, Gordon would shoot the giant robot movie Robot Jox, a movie I know I saw (back in the day) and was actually excited to rent a copy of.  Might have to revisit that one sometime soon...  It's also been forever since I've seen Castle Freak (1995) and I've never seen his take on The Pit and the Pendulum.  I've also not seen some of his most recent films, like Edmond (2005), starring William H. Macy or Stuck (2007), with Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari.  Seems like I'll be having a Round 2 of Stuart Gordon appreciation week at some point in the future.  Stay tuned...

Friday, March 29, 2013

From Beyond

Stuart Gordon appreciation week continues:

Following up the horror/comedy classic Re-Animator (1985) was no easy task, but director Stuart Gordon and company managed to not only match that film in its zany outlandishness, but to top it in excessive goriness and magnificent special effects work in the mostly underseen and overlooked From Beyond (1986).
Another adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft short story, this tale of madness follows Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) and his mentor Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) as they conduct a secretive science experiment, the kind that is inherently doomed to go wrong.  They have invented a device called "the resonator" that allows those within close range to see beyond what they can normally perceive, essentially activating a sixth sense, when the machine is in operation.  Opening these doorways of perception, however, works both ways, as they see strange and vicious creatures floating in the air around them, creatures that can see (and attack) them.  Crawford wants to turn off the machine, but Pretorius insists that it stay on, that he wants to "see more than any man has seen."  Soon after, Pretorius is left headless on the floor and Crawford is running from the attic laboratory and out of the house.

Taken to a mental institution, Crawford is accused of murder and diagnosed with schizophrenia by the cold Dr. Bloch (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon).  When Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) shows up to follow up on Crawford's case, she runs a CT-scan on him and finds that his pineal gland is 3x the size it should be (a side effect of the resonator).  Released into the custody of Dr. McMichaels, along with her police escort Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), the three of them return to Pretorius' house to re-create the experiment, something Crawford is understandably reluctant to do.  He agrees, knowing that it is his only chance at clearing his name and avoid spending the rest of his life in a mental institute.

Of course, recreating the experiments has repercussions, namely the return of Dr. Pretorius who has gone through some. . .changes (and continues to do so).  What follows involves slimy tentacle-monsters, toothy worm-beasts, a bug storm, a little S&M sex, eyeball sucking, brain eating, explosions, and other general craziness.  It's hard to talk about From Beyond without giving away some of the more modest surprises, so if you like seeing a movie fresh and spoiler-free, stop reading here.  If you need further convincing, or if perchance you've seen the film, continue on.
Dr. Pretorius has many monstrous forms, going through five different changes throughout the film, each more grotesque than the last.  In general, he's a slimy, pink mass of flesh and muscle, mixed with teeth and tentacles.   Also, he more or less resembles a penis, due to the extended neck that his head and face protrude from, not to mention all the slithery tentacles waggling around.  This phallic imagery can also be found in Crawford's (eventual) bald head and extended pineal gland.  This (sort of) subtle imagery seems to reinforce the stronger sexual themes that are present in the film, as the character's sexual desires are opened up as a result of using the resonator (they explain this by saying the pineal gland is connected to such things; it isn't).  Katherine and Crawford start to develop a connection, while Pretorius wants to make a connection with Katherine, to "open her mind up," as his sadistic sexual tendencies seem furthered since transforming.

While still living, Dr. Pretorius was into S&M sex, so much so that he had a room in his house stocked with a bed, restraints, chains, mirrors, erotic art, and video recording equipment.  It's in this room that Katherine goes through a radical change after coming under the influence of the resonator, taking her glasses off, letting her hair down, and changing into a leather dominatrix outfit (one that she fits into perfectly).  It's not only a great character scene, watching her go from sultry vixen to being awash in shame (after some timely intervention by Bubba), but, I mean, c'mon, hubba hubba.
The special effects were accomplished by a team (as they usually are) of professionals, including John Naulin, Mark Shostrom, and John Carl Buechler.  Naulin was principal special effects artist on Re-Animator, and he designed the basement worm-monster that terrorizes Crawford and Bubba, which sort of resembles the monsters in The Deadly Spawn (1982).  Buechler did work on Re-Animator designing the zombies featured in the finale.  On From Beyond he was responsible for creature designs and the various incarnations of transformation that Pretorius goes through, supervising the mechanics needed to pull off such complicated effects.  It's fantastic effects work, probably the best visualization of a Lovecraftian nightmare put to film.  The transformations remind me of John Carpenter's The Thing (1982, effects by Rob Bottin) and, to a lesser degree, Brian Yuzna's Society (1989, effects by Screaming Mad George), although that one might have more to do with the color palette of the movie and the sliminess of the creatures.

The dominate color scheme of the film is pink, purple, and blue, all with a sickly neon hue.  As mentioned, the monsters are fleshy and slimy, and these candy colors gives it this slightly cartoony, EC Comic style look.  It enhances the otherworldliness of the violence, the horror, and the terrifyingly unreal monsters.  I find the film to be less goofy than Re-Animator, although there is definitely humor present (Bubba hams it up especially).  The humor is suitably black and maybe a bit dry, as seen in scenes where a little dog licks at the stump of a headless corpse, or later when you see the chalk outline of said body (sans head).
After the success of Re-Animator, director Stuart Gordon signed a three picture deal with Empire Pictures and producer Charles Band, a wise decision on Band's part, as Gordon is easily the best director to ever work for the company.  Gordon would relocate to Rome, Italy, where Empire had their studios located, and he would use some of the same crew and cast from his debut film, but most of the production was rounded out with Italian crewmembers.  Returning was screenplay writer Dennis Paoli, producer Brian Yuzna, cinematographer Mac Ahlberg, editor Lee Percy, composer Richard Band, and others.  Both Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton would return, this time both playing very different characters than the last go round.

Gordon was interested in doing a series of Lovecraft films, similar to Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe films.  This idea wouldn't quite take off, but Gordon would return to the concept with Combs and Crampton for Castle Freak (1995) and would also adapt Lovecraft with 2001's Dagon (a film originally intended to be his Re-Animator follow-up) and his Masters of Horror entry Dreams of the Witch-House from 2005.
Jeffery Combs plays an altogether different kind of weird scientist in this film.  As Herbert West, Combs was brash and bold, but as Crawford his intenseness is compounded by his troubled meekness.  Combs can somehow credibly and believably deliver a line of dialogue like "He bit off his head. . .like. . .a gingerbread man!"  Crawford eventually becomes incredibly unhinged and acts erratically after his pineal gland emerges from his forehead.  Despite becoming a murderous, eye-sucking monster, Crawford still retains a bits of humanity, displaying remorse and a bit of self-loathing.  His final confrontation with Pretorius is equally horrific and outrageous in its execution.  Other than his films with Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs can be seen in The Frighteners (1996), House on Haunted Hill (1999), The Attic Expeditions (2001), and the new horror flick, Would You Rather (2012).

Compared to Megan in Re-Animator, Barbara Crampton has a much more substantial role as Dr. McMichaels.  As I mentioned above, she has a good character arc, with clear motivations.  She ignores the obvious danger potential of the resonator, becoming fixated on the idea that it could be used to diagnose and treat schizophrenia patients, an obsession of hers due to her father (a schizo) who died in a mental hospital.  I love how Katherine, in great horror movie tradition, is left broken and crazed at films end.  I can't say I've seen all of Crampton's work (such as her reoccurring roles on soap operas Young & the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful) but I think it might be safe to say that this is her finest performance.
Ted Sorel is a pretty great villain, giving Pretorius a threatening grandiosity.  In the tradition of great villains, he thinks of himself as a supreme being, as the pinnacle of existence.  His ego is only matched by his monstrous tendencies, such as in one of the more audacious scenes in the film, where Pretorius grabs Katherine and proceeds to molest her with his just-grown tentacle fingers (ewww).  Sorel would have small roles in Lenny (1974) and Network (1976) before settling into a career mainly consisting of television guest-star work.  Along with Barbara Crampton,  From Beyond is, without a doubt, his career highlight.

Ken Foree is a genre favorite, his most legendary role being that of iconic badass Peter in Dawn of the Dead (1979).  As policeman (and former football player) Bubba, Foree plays it loose and jovial, displaying bravery and showing true character.  He also wears some of the littlest red shorts ever to be seen in a motion picture, in full display during the battle with the basement monster.
From Beyond doesn't have quite the reputation or cult following that Re-Animator has, which is a shame, as it is every bit as entertaining as its predecessor and maybe more daring in its depiction of Lovecraftian nightmare visuals.  It definitely outdoes Re-Animator in terms of sheer whatthefuckery.  If you're a fan of Lovecraft, practical special effects, gooey monsters, and/or weird scientific terrors, then you owe it to yourself to check out From Beyond, guaranteed to deliver on all fronts and on the promise that "humans are such easy prey."
*This trailer for From Beyond features a lot of the cool special effects and other crazy shit, but is also fairly heavy on SPOILERS, so proceed with caution:

Commerce section:
From Beyond was just released this week on a new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from the fantastic folks over at Scream Factory (subsidiary of Shout! Factory).  Packed full of special features, including commentaries, interviews, and more(!), the transfer looks great, the colors really pop, and you can see every dripping glob of goo.  I noticed the detail during the bug storm scene was remarkable; you could really see those little buggers.  If you're into it, you should totally buy yourself a copy.  I know I will be.
Random thought:
Being a child of the 80s, I used to cruise up and down the aisles of the video store, looking at vivid box art in the horror section and just imagining what kind of stuff was in these movies, and the From Beyond VHS cover was so lurid and in-your-face that it definitely stood out to me.  For some reason though, when I was younger I used to associate the title of From Beyond with Brain Dead (1989) and (to a lesser extent) Altered States (1980), simply because I thought they all had similar box covers (at least at the time):

I guess this style of VHS box can be called the "close-up of a weirdo's face" style of box art.  I like it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Re-Animator (1985) is an all-time classic horror/comedy/zombie/gore/mad scientist/cult film based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft concerning a brilliant and obsessive young doctor named Herbert West (Jeffery Combs) who has perfected a serum that brings the dead back to life.  He is a medical student at a school in New England where he finds assistance from his classmate Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) and opposition is met from Dean Alan Halsey (who is also the father of Dan's girlfriend, Megan [Barbara Crampton]) and the menacing Dr. Hill (David Gale).

I'm fairly sure I don't really need to sell anybody on Re-Animator.  If you're into horror films at all, you've most likely seen it, and if not, you've at least heard of it and quite possibly plan on watching it.  If that's the case, what are you waiting for?  Get to it.

It has this:
this thing here:
some of this:
one of these:
this too:
a little of this:
these guys here:
and this:
That pretty much covers the basics.  Any questions?
Director Stuart Gordon was operating The Organic Theater Company in Chicago, Illinois, when he decided to try his hand at making a movie.  Gordon wanted to do something with the Frankenstein myth, but a friend turned him on to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, specifically the short story "Herbert West-Reanimator."  Once this concept was decided on, Gordon started to develop the project as a possible half-hour long anthology TV series, but none of the networks were interested in half hour shows (they preferred hour long), nor were they interested in anything horror themed.

Gordon was then introduced to first time producer Brian Yuzna, who had some personal money to spend at the time, as well as the means to raise more funds.  More importantly, Yuzna was a fan of horror films and was an enthusiastic producer.  Dropping the idea to make it an anthology series, they focused on making a feature length movie instead.  The final screenplay is credited to Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris (who was involved more with the TV series proposal), and Stuart Gordon himself, and it makes many deviations from the source story, such as modernizing the setting and adding the characters of Dan, Megan, and Dr. Hill.
Shot in 3 weeks in Los Angeles, Re-Animator would feature a great cast that was more than willing to get gooey and gross with the fantastic special effects work.  The effects were completely practical (all done on set), utilizing gallons of fake blood and animal guts.  The most complicated effects work was done with the severed, re-animated head of Dr. Hill, which was accomplished by using a combination of 7 different techniques to sustain the macabre illusion.  The simplest effect, that of the glowing re-animate serum, would also end up becoming one of the more iconic images from the film.  The sickly, green goo was made from the same solution found most commonly in glow-sticks and its use in Re-Animator was the first time it was seen on screen in a motion picture.

The film is energetically in-your-face and over the top, bringing black, gallows humor in combination with the graphic special effects.  The entire scene with Herbert and Dan chasing Rufus the cat in the basement is both tension filled and a laugh riot.  It's perfectly punctuated by Herbert pulling a "gotcha" on Dan after he hurls the cat at the wall.   The balance of horror and humor in the Re-Animator is comparable to that of other horror/comedies such as House (1986), Evil Dead 2 (1987) and Peter Jackson's Bad Taste (1987) and Dead Alive (1992).
Released in October of 1985, Re-Animator would be met by an enthusiastic public and would even win the critics award at the Cannes film festival that year.  The film would do good financial business and would garner positive reviews from critics Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael.  This feat is even more impressive as the film wasn't submitted to the MPAA and was released 'unrated,' which severely limited how and where the film could be marketed.  The film would later find new life (so to speak) on the home video market where it would cultivate its cult following.
Stuart Gordon would go on to sign a three picture deal with executive producer Charles Band and Empire Pictures, moving to Rome to direct From Beyond (1986, another Lovecraft production), Dolls (1987), and Robot Jox (1989).  He would work again with the same cast and crew on multiple projects.  In recent years, Gordon has returned to directing productions on the stage; his last film was the based-on-a-horrible-true-story Stuck (2007).  One of Stuart Gordon's most interesting film credits (given the rest of his body of work) is a story credit (along with Brian Yuzna) for the family adventure film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989).

Brian Yuzna would produce Stuart Gordon's next two movies and would start directing films himself with the amazing special effects spectacle Society (1989).  He would also direct both Re-Animator sequels, the enthusiastically weird Bride of Re-Animator (1989) and the not so good Beyond Re-Animator (2003).  Brian Yuzna would reteam with Stuart Gordon in 2001, producing his adaptation of Lovecraft's Dagon.
1985 was a busy year for zombie movies, also seeing the release of George Romero's Day of the Dead and Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead.  Both of those films would see greater financial success, but Re-Animator is a much more entertaining and enjoyable film when compared to the rather bleak (but admittedly still entertaining) Day of the Dead or the rather stupid ROTLD (for my money, I've always preferred Part III (1993) of that series, which happens to be directed by Brian Yuzna).
"Mr. West, I suggest you get yourself a pen!"
Jeffrey Combs gained genre icon status with his portrayal of Herbert West, giving him this detached sense of superiority and brashness.  Combs has a great, intelligent snideness about him, playing complicated weirdos with the seemingly greatest of ease.   He would reprise his role as Herbert West in the two Re-Animator sequels, as well as work with Stuart Gordon another 7 times.  He was also in Peter Jackson's ghost-fest The Frighteners (1996) as the beyond troubled Milton Dammers.

David Gale plays a great villain and has a classic screen presence about him, a more gothic look, like he belongs in a Frankenstein film or something, which might actually be why his casting is so apt.  A subplot was cut out of the finished film depicting Dr. Hill as having hypnotic powers, unnecessarily explaining his control over the zombies later in the film.  David Gale would reprise his role as Dr. Hill in the sequel, Bride of Re-Animator, apparently in spite of his character's condition at the end of the first film.  His promising film career would be cut short by his untimely death in 1991.
Barbara Crampton was very brave to be in this film, considering what her character has to go through later in the movie.  She's really great in the role as Megan, giving her sincerity and confidence, and not just playing her as a terrified, helpless girl (although she does have a great scream).  Her scenes with Bruce Abbott really ground the film and give it a sense of normalcy amongst all the chaos and these weird, eccentric characters.  Kudos to Abbott for playing an excellent everyman and really holding the movie together.
The art direction was done by the great Robert A. Burns (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Mausoleum) and I'd like to think it was his choice to hang up that big Talking Heads poster on the wall behind Dan's bed during all the love making scenes.
The writer of the film Dennis Paoli would also write Gordon's From Beyond, The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Castle Freak (1995), and both of his Masters of Horror entries.  He would also pen Brian Yuzna's dental horror/Corbin Bernsen showcase The Dentist (1996) and its 1998 sequel.  At his day job, Paoli is a professor of gothic literature at Hunter College in New York City.

The iconic theme song by Richard Band (Charlie Band's brother) borrows motifs from Bernard Herrmann's score for Psycho (1960), which has caused him to be accused of being a hack and/or a plagiarist (by some).  I think by borrowing from a film score as famous as Psycho it gives the music a playfulness that alerts the audience that, yes, you are watching a horror film, and yes it's okay to laugh and have fun.  The opening animated credits add to this feeling, as if you are getting ready to watch some sort of demented cartoon.
The cinematographer Mac Ahlberg was an Empire Pictures vet, also shooting the low budgeted (but entertaining) Ghoulies, Trancers (both 1985), and Eliminators (1986).  He helped educate Gordon on the craft of filmmaking during the production of Re-Animator, sometimes through gentle arguments and heated disagreements.  They apparently forged a strong working relationship, as they'd work together on another five films.

Ahlberg is quoted as saying that David Bowie has told him that Re-Animator is his favorite movie.

If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.