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Herbert West

Actor(s): Jeffrey Combs

The scientist who makes a reagent to bring back the dead.

Tropes:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In Lovecraft's original story, Herbert West was described as blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Every subsequent depiction of West anywhere else since the Re-Animator film has been closer to Jeffrey Combs' appearance.
  • Animals Hate Him: Dan's cat Rufus is said to have hated Herbert in the first Re-Animator. It's unclear if Rufus sensed something unusual about Herbert or if he was just being an ordinary cat. It's also unclear whether or not Herbert killed Rufus to use in an experiment. In Bride of Re-Animator, though, the dog Angel has no problem with him.
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  • Anti-Villain: West does really nasty, dreadful stuff, and the well being of his "friends" is an afterthought for him, but all he does is done in the name of science, and he never sets out to kill anyone unless it's in self-defense or the person deserved it. He also seems to genuinely have a fondness for Dan, even calling the Re-Agent in Bride "our Re-Agent", feeding heavily into the Ho Yay between the two.
  • Byronic Hero: The most positive interpretation of Herbert West is that he genuinely doesn't want to hurt anyone, but his blind pursuit of science leads to him doing some REALLY dreadful stuff in its name. He also has many flaws, including bluntness and lack of social skills.
  • Character Development: Of a sort. He goes from having Genre Blindness in the first two films to having gained a definite level of Genre Savvy in Beyond; the moment he sees Laura and Phillips' reaction to her, he knows she'll be trouble, and his approach to his experiments is much more methodical than his usual cut-and-paste improvised method of experimentation. He also learns to sedate a corpse before reanimating it. Even before then, when he sees Dan Cain's reaction to Francesca in Bride Of Reanimator, he subtly warns Dan not to get involved, having seen how Dan's involvement with Megan partially led to their troubles in the previous film.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Herbert West rarely shows any emotions, especially in his voice, but he has a cutting way of speaking that makes it clear how much he looks down upon people around him.
    "You steal the secret of life and death, and here you are trysting with a bubble-headed coed."
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    • Also:
    "Who's going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow!"
    • After Dan starts flirting with Francesca:
    "Don't let the little head rule the big head, Dan!"
  • Disney Death: In Re-Animator, he is dragged off of his feet and through clouds of chemical fog by the whipping intestines of a melting Dr. Hill's body. In Bride of Re-Animator, he is dragged to his feet by his grotesqueries and then buried under a collapsing tomb.
  • Forgets to Eat: Meg points out that Dan has never seen Herbert West eat or sleep when she tries to convince him that his new border is creepy. After Dean Halsey's death and re-animation, it's shown that West injects a diluted version of his Re-Agent instead of "wasting time" in that way.
  • For Science!: Herbert West is dead serious about his dedication to this trope. He has no motivation for any of his experiments beyond his need to know. He's not interested in fame, money, helping others, or even immortality. He just wants to go past the mysteries of life and death. As far as he's concerned, any other thing is superfluous.
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  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: West's ever-present glasses give him a cold, icily intellectual mien, a visual cue as to his slimy, amoral, science-obsessed personality.
  • Hollywood Atheist: West is extremely skeptical of anything approaching religion, viewing it as a wrapping to justify ignorance and stifle science. He doesn't go out of his way to lambaste the religious, but his Blasphemous Boast in Bride Of Reanimator makes it clear how he thinks. In fact, West is so strictly "logic-focused" that he refuses to consider the possibility that Nano-Plasmic Energy might not be a strictly neutral energy form, even though Howard Phillips points out he's basically found a way to capture and transfer the soul, for lack of a better term.
  • I Control My Minions Through...: West's control over Dan Cain in the first two films is a combination of Corruption (appealing to Dan's scientific curiosity and belief in the possible good West's Re-Agent can do) and Fear - Point of No Return (Dan's fear of being punished by the authorities for his involvement in West's desecration of bodies and the Miskatonic Massacre). With Howard Phillips in the third film, he instead relies on a mixture of accidental Corruption (Phillips became fascinated with West's work after his sister was killed by one of West's re-animates) and Respect (Phillips wants to genuinely learn from West).
  • Insufferable Genius: West's brash personality leads to a rocky relationship with many people, most prominently with Dr. Hill in the first movie.
  • Karma Houdini: Zigzagged. Played straight in that, even with all the nightmarish stuff he causes and the many, MANY times someone or something tries to kill him, West always survives. Subverted when his survival at the end of Bride Of Reanimator results in his being sentenced to jail for at least 15 years, with Dan Cain turning state's evidence on him and his own arrogant attitude getting him sentenced to solitary confinement for three years. Then played straight when he manages to escape in the chaos of the riot caused by the reanimated Moses at the end of Beyond Re-Animator.
  • Lack of Empathy: Other than some token, manipulative interactions with Dan Cain, West shows no sign of valuing human life at all, despite his stated goal of conquering death. For example, when his "Bride" for Dan tears herself apart over Dan's rejection of her, West's reaction is a coldly indifferent musing to himself about "tissue rejection".
  • Mad Doctor: It goes without saying that anyone who wants to break the laws of life and death is a little nuts. That he persists in his experiments despite the constant result of this being homicidal monsters shows he's completely out of his mind. He's only a medical student, and not a fully accredited doctor in the first film, however.
  • Mad Scientist: Surprisingly he's also the most level-headed individual in the entire series— by the end of a film, everyone except West is going through some manner of hysterics, while West continues like everything is just another experiment... in fact, his dispassionate indifference to the chaos around him is in many ways an indication of just how insane he is.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: He is a licensed medical practitioner... but he wants to conquer death, and he is willing to ruin peoples' lives to conduct his experiments. Nobody can quite agree where West stands on the hero/villain spectrum.
  • Necromancer: Although West would reject this title as superstitious, fantastical nonsense, the truth is that it's exactly what he is, creating The Undead and Flesh Golems pretty much just because he can.
  • Pet the Dog: West does occasionally express something approaching genuine fondness for Dan Cain, and even tries to build him a replacement for his dead girlfriend with the titular Bride Of Reanimator. On the other hand, these moments of empathy and kindness could just be West manipulating Dan into staying loyal to him.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: He willing experiments with his Re-Agent's effect on living tissue by dosing himself with it. In fact, he more or less admits it's become something of a Fantastic Drug to him, as he's grown dependent on using it instead of sleeping or eating.
  • Science Hero: Well, "Hero" is definitely stretching it, but he is the series' primary protagonist and he lives by the ideal of For Science!.
  • Science-Related Memetic Disorder: West seems legitimately incapable of resisting the urge to experiment with his Re-Agent, no matter how badly it goes wrong or how little sense it makes to do so. See his immediate response to decapitating Dr. Hill being to inject both parts of him with Re-Agent. Or randomly melding different scraps of body parts together and reanimating just to see what happens. Or refusing to leave in the middle of a riot so he can finally conduct the experiment with rat-to-human NPE transplanting he was denied by Howard Phillips.
  • Skewed Priorities: All Herbert West cares about is continuing his experiments. It doesn't matter how badly this works out, he continues his attempts to play God for the sheer sake of proving he's right.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Played with. On the one hand, it's played straight in that West is revealed to have not actually been killed in his Disney Death with the release of Bride Of Reaimator. On the other hand, there's also the fact that West got a Disney Death in the first place, with his literary counterpart's demise — being torn limb from limb by a crowd of zombies — being given to the re-animated Dean Halsey instead.
  • Sociopathic Hero: His cold, unfeeling demeanor along with his lack of morals is a dead ringer for this trope. Whilst it's possible to read his interactions with Dan Cain as a sign of friendship, it's just as easy to read them as West manipulating Cain into serving him as The Igor.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: It's implied that at least part of West's psychotic obsession with experimenting with his Re-Agent is brain damage caused by injecting himself with the stuff.
  • Too Clever by Half: A lot of West's problems come from his own Insufferable Genius antics and his refusal to admit that, maybe, he's discovered something that people shouldn't be messing with. Seriously, one of his more intelligent re-animates turns on him in every single movie because of this. Additionally, he overestimates his own intelligence; see how his theories about Nano-Plasmic Energy transfer not having side-effects turns out to be wrong.
  • Took a Level in Badass: West in Beyond is much more willing to be physical than in the previous flicks. 13 years in prison will do that to you, it seems.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Herbert West himself seemingly dies at the end of the first two films, and at the start of the next film he is alive and well with no explanation.
    • A deleted scene from the start of 'Bride' explains Herbert's escape the first time, at least. The second time, though...
  • Villain Protagonist: Despite being the titular protagonist of the film series, Herbert West is very much a villain, who is completely indifferent to the suffering — emotional and literal — that his experiments wreak whenever they go out of control, as they invariably do. In Beyond Reanimator, when Howard Phillips confronts West on the fact his sister was killed by one of West's Re-Animates, West shrugs it off as simply collateral damage.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Herbert with Dan.

Dan Cain

A Miskatonic University medical student who takes Herbert West in as a housemate to pay his rent, only to be drawn into West's twisted experiments.

Tropes:

  • The Dog Bites Back: Beyond Reanimator reveals that, after two near-death experiences at the hands of West's crazed experiments, Dan finally went to the police and turned him in.
  • The Igor: Dan's basic role in the first two films is as West's glorified assistant and dog's body.
  • Morality Pet: Zigzagged. On the one hand, Dan seems to be the one person West shows anything approaching empathy for. On the other hand, West clearly dominates and manipulates Dan, coaxing him into helping with his experiments.
  • Sanity Slippage: By the end of Bride Of Reanimator, Dan's sanity has taken some severe knocks, although Francesca's help manages to draw him back to his senses.

Megan Halsey

A Miskatonic University medical student, Dan's girlfriend and the daughter of Dean Halsey.

Tropes:

  • Killed Off for Real: Strangled to death by a re-animate at the end of the first film. Dan tries to revive her, but he failed somehow.
  • Only Sane Man: She's the first person to become clued in that West is an absolute lunatic, and tries repeatedly to coax Dan into turning his back on West's madness.

Francesca

An Italian reporter that West and Cain meet briefly during their stint in the jungles of South America, whom Dan later meets and dates back in North America.

Tropes:

  • Expy: Of Megan Dalsey, from the first film. Dan and West even comment on her resemblance to Megan.
  • Only Sane Man: Like Megan, she tries to snap Dan out of his crazed willingness to follow West into his obscene experiments. Unlike Megan, she succeeds.

Howard Phillips

A child whose beloved older sister is murdered by one of West's re-animates at the end of Bride Of Reanimator, he subsequently studies medicine and becomes a doctor in order to get close to Herbert West and learn his secrets.

Tropes:

  • Expy: He takes the role of Dan Cain from the first two films.
  • The Igor: He's basically West's subordinate, using his position to smuggle in the chemicals that West needs to make his Re-Agent so that he can study West's work.
  • Laughing Mad: After the decapitated Laura's head opens its eyes and starts laughing, the already unstable Phillips loses what's left of his sanity and begins bellowing with laughter himself.
  • Sanity Slippage: After Laura's death, reanimation, and his need to decapitate her to prevent being killed by her, he completely loses his mind.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: He used to be a normal pre-teen boy. He grew up to become a Mad Doctor-wannabe.

Laura

A reporter who is doing a report on the prison where West has been imprisoned, and finds herself drawn into investigating West's work.

Tropes:

  • The Corruption: After being re-animated, to snap her out of her traumatized state, West persuades Phillips to let him inject Nano-Plasmic Energy taken from Warden Brando into her. The result is that she gains an Enemy Within style partial Personality Swap, occasionally losing control of her body to a psychotic, murderous version of herself based on Brando's own psychoses.

Warden Brando

The cruel and sadistic warden who runs the prison

Tropes:

  • Groin Attack: The re-animated Laura bites off his penis when he tries to rape her after she's received a transfusion of his own Nano-Plasmic Energy.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Just in case you agreed with him that the men under his care are human monsters who deserve to be punished, and thus excused his obvious sadistic cruelty, he subsequently rapes and murders Laura.

The Re-Animates

The various products of West's work in re-animating the dead.

Tropes:

  • Artificial Zombie: They're dead bodies brought to life by a scientific chemical concoction.
  • Flesh-Eating Zombie: Averted; unlike in the novels, they show no particular craving for human flesh.
  • Flesh Golem: In Bride Of Reanimator, West starts experimenting with animating conglomerations of different body-parts, often shaped in fashions completely unlike anything appearing in nature. Such as a "bug" made out of five fingers chemically welded to an eyeball...
  • Man Bites Man: Whilst they have no real craving for human flesh, two of the Re-Animates — the heart-attack cadaver in the first film and Moses, the mad cannibal from the third — are shown biting people when they attack.
  • Raising the Steaks: Herbert West reanimates Rufus the cat in the first film, and Angel the dog in the second film (after replacing her torn-off forelimb with a human arm). In the second film, minor character Dr. Graves also reanimates a bat whilst experimenting with the sample of Re-Agent he finds.
  • Super Strength: All re-animates display a far greater level of strength than they would have had whilst alive. One-armed Neck Lifts are seen on multiple occasions.
  • Super Toughness: They're quite resistant to damage, being made of dead flesh, but they can be killed with sufficient firepower.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: They are never loyal to Herbert West — if anything, they seem to have a particular hatred for him, and viciously attack him at every opportunity.

Dr. Hill

A former pupil of Dr. Gruber, the same man whom Herbert West trained under, who plagiarized Gruber's work and then went to work for Miskatonic University.

Tropes:

  • Flying Face: He has re-animated bat's wings stitched to his head in Bride Of Reanimator, allowing him to fly freely.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: West decapitates him with a shovel, and then brings both halves back with his Re-Agent simultaneously. By Bride Of Reanimator, his body has been destroyed, leaving just his head.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: He has an unseemly interest in Megan Halsey, who is much younger than he is. He uses his hypnotic powers to turn her father against Megan's boyfriend, Dan Cain, and is revealed to have a stalker's file on her, with hair clippings and other creepy things. He's also a plagiarist, having stolen early work from Dr. Gruber and seeking to do the same with Herbert West's Re-Agent.
  • Off with His Head!: Herbert West decapitates him with a shovel for trying to steal his work.
  • Psychic Powers: Although they are never explained in the film, Dr. Hill has apparently unlocked some hidden power of the mind, allowing him to achieve feats of inhuman will. He hypnotizes Dean Halsey relatively early in the movie, and even manages to use these same powers to temporarily cow Herbert West. After becoming a re-animate, he loses this trait, but gains telepathic control over other re-animates.

The Bride of the Re-Animator

A female Flesh Golem constructed by Herbert West to create a wholly new conscious — as well as a girlfriend for Dan Cain.

Tropes:

  • And Show It to You: Rips out her heart and thrusts it at Dan after he rejects her.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Unlike the Bride of Frankenstein's Monster, she is deeply enamored with Dan Cain at first sight, and does not take it well when Francesca gets too close to him.
    • If Herbert's belief that consciousness resides in every part of the body is correct, one could assume she's drawn to Dan because she has Meg's heart.
  • Cute Monster Girl: In an Ugly Cute sort of way; despite being a mess of body-parts held together with artificial implants, she's weirdly sexy.
  • Expy: Of the titular Bride of Frankenstein.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: She's a clear homage to the female Frankenstein's Monster.
  • Man Bites Man: During her fight with Francesca, she bites her neck at one point.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: She's assembled from the parts of many different women, including the heart of Megan Dalsey from the first film, the head of Dan Cain's personal patient — the terminally ill (and eerily Megan-like) Gloria, the legs of a prostitute stabbed to death by her own pimp in the hospital, the hands of an artist and a murderer, the feet of a ballet dancer who committed suicide after a psychotic breakdown (she sawed them off herself), and the lower torso of a virgin.
  • Super Strength: Like all re-animates, she displays far greater strength than any normal human woman.
  • Tragic Monster: She's actually the least violent of any re-animate seen in the series, and expresses a genuine love and affection for Dan Cain, her intended bride, from the moment she comes to life and sees him waiting for her. But he rejects her because, as he points out, she's just a thing made from corpses — a condition she certainly had no say in. In the end, heartbroken, she literally tears herself apart because she can't bear to live without him and he clearly won't have her.
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