After spending several years performing in playhouses on the West Coast, Combs moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and landed his first role in the 1981 film Honky Tonk Freeway, in which he played an unnamed drive-in teller. Other film credits include Feardot Com (2002), House on Haunted Hill (1999), I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) and The Frighteners (1996).His first horror film role came two years later, in the Frightmare (1983). Combs has had roles in many science fiction television series.But let’s face it, that can always be tweaked or cheated in order for there to be a sequel!And in 1989, we got our RE-ANIMATOR sequel, this time under the direction of producer Brian Yuzna, who had just completed his gooey sleaze-fest, SOCIETY!The film is full of ghastly twists and turns while delivering incredibly over-the-top gore; one scene involving Hill’s noggin and the unfortunate Barbara Crampton is worth the price of admission alone. Vincenzo Natali, the Canadian director behind the 1997 cult classic stars Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester, bring to life an organism that transforms into a child and eventually blossoms into Dren (Delphine Chenéac), a beautiful-yet-still-very-alien woman.Gordon and writer Dennis Paoli, a frequent collaborator, mine the piece for absurd humor that’s always played with a straight face, with Combs getting the best lines. The film gets points for never winking to the audience and delivering a series of disturbing twists as not only Dren changes physically, but Clive and Elsa soon find themselves transformed emotionally by their new “daughter.” The film doesn’t entirely work; Clive and Elsa come off as largely unsympathetic and a climactic reveal is telegraphed way too far in advance. Over the years, as I’ve gotten older and gone back to revisit Stuart Gordon’s 1984 masterpiece, I tend to find it less shocking and scary, and more of a fun, comedic romp. He also lusts, in very creepy fashion, after the dean’s daughter Meg (Barbara Crampton) who happens to be dating Dan Cain.
And if not, I know for me personally, I definitely felt like I was watching something that I absolutely should not be seeing. Meg’s father ends up accidentally killed, and then reanimated. Hill’s head, only for the good ol’ doctor to come back holding his own noggin in the arms of his headless body!
With over 25 gallons of fake blood used in the production, the film’s campy violence and exploding appendages made it an instant cult classic.
Though its North American box-office was a modest million during its four-week run, the critical response was overwhelmingly positive, citing the gore-fest’s tongue-in-cheek direction and Jeffrey Combs’s gonzo performance as “Re-Animator” Herbert West as strokes of genius.
Combs was born in Oxnard, California, to Jean (née Sullins) Owens (1921-1986) and Eugene "Gene" Combs (1922-1999), and raised in Lompoc.
He attended Santa Maria's Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, and later developed his acting skills in the Professional Actor's Training Program at the University of Washington.