At face value, Herbert West’s cold, haughty attitude towards virtually everyone could be simply interpreted as an extension of the mad scientist character archetype (and to some extent, it is). Herbert West has a particular disdain for and flummoxed fascination with women and women’s bodies. In the first film, this manifests as frequent clashes with Dan’s girlfriend Meg (Crampton), the daughter of the Mistkatonic Dean and the object of Dr. Carl Hill’s (David Gale’s) desires.
For West, though, his intensity of feelings towards Meg doesn’t come from a place of sexual desire or romantic inclination—West despises Meg because of how much she robs him of Dan’s time and assistance. Despite constantly talking down to and sneering at Dan, Herbert also has a remarkably self-aware understanding that, without Dan, his experiments wouldn’t be complete, and thus Meg is the problem standing in the way of Herbert perfecting the serum.
This is how the messy Dan/Herbert/Megan relationship is presented on initial viewing/understandings of “Re-Animator,” but, of course, as queer visibility boomed in pop culture and media consumption went digital, LGBTQ+ fans latched onto Herbert’s disdain for Meg and jealousy of her as an indication of romantic feelings (conscious or unconscious) for Dan.
Herbert’s vocal lobbying for Dan’s attention, alongside his equally apparent contempt for Meg as indicators of Herbert’s stifled affection, lend “Bride Of Re-Animator” a new understanding as well, considering how the sequel revolves around Herbert attempting to build the perfect romantic partner for Dan by use of Meg’s heart. Across all three films, Herbert is (by his own deliberate action and the understanding of others) standoffish and not prone to affection—only offering Dan words of comfort when Dan’s moral compass and/or nerves are stalling West’s research.
But in “Bride,” Herbert finds an outlet for his reliance on/dedication to Dan—building him the perfect woman and making Meg the center of everything. Despite the fact that he (by all accounts) hated her and never gave Meg much more than a second glance, Herbert is demonstrated to be acutely aware of (and annoyed by) the sway that Meg holds over Dan’s mind and heart—a sway that some fans argue Herbert Wants for himself.
Then, of course, there’s the Dan of it all—Bruce Abbott makes for a strong-jawed, clean-cut, broad-shouldered opposite to the squirrely Herbert, but he’s also not dismissed as simply a hunk or a dumb jock. Instead, Dan has a massive bleeding heart—a dedication to his patients and a moral compass that Herbert finds entirely inconvenient when it comes to The Work. But despite West’s continued antics and Dan’s genuine want to do the right thing, Dan can’t help but heel when Herbert calls—pulling him out of fires (literally) and remaining staunchly loyal, despite how horrified he is by Herbert’s experiments.