How Re-Animator: The Musical makes intestines attack people, live on stage

The stage version of Re-Animator was supposed to end its run the other day, but it's been extended until the end of May. Unlike Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Re-Animator: The Musical is a low-budget DIY affair.

But that doesn't mean the special effects are weak. Director Stuart Gordon (who also directed the film) has recruited some of the special-effects team from the original movie to create some amazingly horrific effects, right on stage. NPR has a fascinating report about all of the wizardry that goes into making it seem as though a severed intestine is attacking someone.

And as a side note: That's the best argument we've heard lately for supporting NPR — who else is going to delve into these important issues?

The Re-Animator stage show is so bloody, the first two rows of seats are designated as the "splash zone," for people who actually want to be spattered with tons of fake blood during the show. Gordon tells NPR, "Blood is part of the story, and we decided that we should have a special zone for the audience who really likes blood to be able to bathe in it, to be showered with it."

So how do they make an intestine come out and strangle Herbert West? Visual effects creator Shayna Naulin took a flesh-colored material, used for creating the inside lining of swimming suits, and sculpted it. It was very light, like a boa, even after a rubber tube was added to pump blood. And then actor Graham Skipper does his best to make it look like he's really being attacked. (The show also co-stars George Wendt, better known as Norm from Cheers.)

Beth Accomando, who did the NPR report, also reviewed the show for KPBS:

Mark Nutter wrote the songs/lyrics that play off the film's script with enough faithfulness to make the cult fans happy but enough freshness to revitalize the material. There is also use of the film's original and memorable theme (which was itself a riff on Bernard Herrmann's "Psycho" music). The reanimated corpses even do a kind of conga line to the theme at one point, and that was priceless. It could become the "Time Warp" dance for a new generation...

The whole production had a wonderful do-it-yourself quality that worked amazingly well at engaging the audience. We are so jaded by big budget productions that try so hard to make everything look seamless and flawless and "real." But on a certain level that distances the audience from the production. We become mere spectators. ...

But the most fun comes from the special effects. I can't tell you how much delicious it is to watch practical effects done "live" on stage – like having an actor beheaded and the severed head picked up and put on a table where it begins to talk. It all happens before your eyes and you know you're being tricked yet it's still magical and a wicked fun. Major kudos to the effects team for their work.

Musicals in L.A. reviewed the show a while back, and wrote:

The story follows the film pretty closely and horror aficionados will gleefully know what's coming next, but I won't spoil it for the horror neophytes in the audience. What I will say is that there is plenty of death, sex, horror, comedy, music, and yes, even dancing. It is a musical, after all....

Original music for the film was done by Richard Band and composer Mark Nutter takes Band's original Re-Animator motif and uses it as the basis for the score. Many of the songs follow a stream of consciousness recitative style, and you probably won't leave singing any familiar tunes, but that's not the allure of this musical. Come for the horror, stay for the camp, and you'll be happily satisfied.

[NPR]