Why does Stuart Gordon, director of Re-Animator, bombard us with eye symbolism in the 1985 cult favorite? We see Dr. Gruber (Al Berry) die with his eyes bursting out of his head, then the credits sequence features not only an anatomical drawing of the eye but also a camera shot that takes us at the end of the sequence through the eye socket of one of the drawings directly into a live action shot of Miskatonic U. At the end of the movie, Dean Halsey (Robert Sampson) gouges out Dr. Hill’s (David Gale) eyes; also, Dan (Bruce Abbott) plucks out the eye of a reanimated corpse that is on top of him in the hall by the elevators.
It’s not the usual use of the eye as a “window to the soul,” because that would mean that the soul, or the will, is in the brain, as Dr. Hill believes. Dr. Hill is the villain of this film, so he must be wrong. No, the fixation on the eye, or rather eye trauma in this case, represents a disconnect between the eye and the brain, or the divide between knowledge and insight. Also, the three major characters are figuratively blind. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), Dan, and Dr. Hill all are highly intelligent people who have incredible knowledge about the nature of life and death, and they all make the poor choice to abuse it terribly: West because he is insane, Dan to cover his ass and then for love, and Hill merely to try and rape Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton). Besides, as Hill demonstrates when we last leave him and West in the morgue, the will of a human is in the intestines. You can’t triumph in this world with brains alone; you’ve also got to have guts.