AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: Herbert West – Reanimator by HP Lovecraft (1922)

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Today I’m going to look at a short story by one of horror’s most celebrated writers, HP Lovecraft. I’ve not really read any of his stuff before, so I thought this would be as good a chance as any to rectify the situation. I found a collection of his stories on Paperbackswap.com last year. That collection is called The Road to Madness: The Transition of HP Lovecraft.

The collection includes Lovecraft’s novella At the Mountains of Madness which Guillermo Del Toro has been trying to set up as a film adaptation for many years.  But the story I was actually looking for was Herbert West – Reanimator.  It was this short story on which the classic 1985 horror film The Re-animator starring Jeffrey Combs is based.

I, for one, love that cheesy horror film from 1985.  So, I thought that since I was doing zombies for my Halloween theme, I’d not only revisit the awesome Re-animator movie but I’d also read and review the original Lovecraft short story.

And now I’ve read it.  To be honest, the story isn’t the best.  It’s not terrible, it’s just sort of fast paced and feels more like an outline of a larger story.  The short story is broken up into 4 parts.  While reading, it really felt like Lovecraft was repeating himself across the four parts as he continually describes Herbert West’s looks (slight in build, glasses, blond hair) and the events of the previous part of the story.  In action that only takes place in about 50 pages, it gets a little annoying.  I assumed while reading that this must have been originally serialized in a magazine and Lovecraft was just “refreshing” the reader’s memory from last time.  And after some research I see that I’m right.  The story was originally published in four parts in the amateur magazine Home Brew in 1922.

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The story is very clearly based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. A brilliant but single-minded and unorthodox scientist, Herbert West, conducts arcane and taboo experiments on human bodies trying to reanimate dead tissue.  The story is told by a narrator who has been Herbert West’s assistant/apprentice for many years.  It starts off with experiments while the youths are in medical school and each part tells a different time in their lives when they begin their experiments anew.  The story is told by the assistant from some unknown time in the future as he’s looking back on the events which led to Dr Herbert West’s disappearance.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story, I guess.  There is potential there and this story is much more serious in tone and dark in nature than the movie which infuses lots of humor into the story.  I guess, for better or for worse, that I just know the Re-Animator movie so well that the original story just seems odd to me.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

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3 Responses to “AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: Herbert West – Reanimator by HP Lovecraft (1922)”

  1. Yeah, Lovecraft is a strange bug. I love a lot of his stories, but they’re a bit to wrap your head around sometimes. When he was on his game he really had a knack for attempting to describe the un-describable if that makes any sense. I just rented From Beyond, the other Stuart Gordon Lovecraft adaptation, can’t wait to see it.

    Have you seen Bride of Re-Animator? Totally batshit crazy flick that in ways tops the original…

  2. I love how HP Lovecraft’s stories were being serialized in “Home Brew” magazine, with a smiling sun adorning the cover. I can only imagine loads of disappointed housewives sitting at home reading it and scratching their heads. Then reaching for a mid-day beer.

  3. Herbert West – Reanimator is a poor place to start w/Lovecraft – he himself didn’t like it very much, and it was written as a cheap, gory parody for some badly needed cash. I hope you get a taste of some of his better work!

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