Herbert West is the inventor of a special solution that when injected into a main artery of a recently deceased person causes the body's mechanical, living functions to return. However, most subjects that have undergone the "re-animation" process have turned violent and, after failed attempts to return to their own graves, have terrorized the communities into which they were reanimated.
In Lovecraft's tale, Herbert West was ostracized by his fellow medical students because he believed he could overcome death and had only one friend: the unnamed narrator of the story. After a series of successful experiments Herbert West is eventually torn to pieces by his own experiments.
The character of Herbert West returned to popular media in the Stuart Gordon film Re-Animator and its sequels, starring Jeffrey Combs as Dr. West. These films transplant the character into the modern day (1980s-2000s) rather than the Prohibition era and changes his hair from Lovecraft's specified blond to brown, but otherwise the character remains unchanged. The film is also set over a fairly short period of time where West and Cain are still medical students, whereas the short story played out over the span of decades from the years of medical students, practising doctors, war-time physicians and eventually retirement. In the first two films the equivalent of West's nameless companion is Dr. Dan Cain, played by Bruce Abbott, who finds himself embroiled in West's experiments.
A pornographic parody, entitled Re-Penetrator also exists.
Herbert West makes a guest appearance in the Dynamite EntertainmentHack/Slash comic book series (#15-17) in a crossover "Hack/Slash vs. Re-Animator" where the main heroine, Cassie Hack's father is an assistant to Herbert. During one of his experiments, he reanimates her mother the Lunch Lady, who almost starts a killing spree. However, with Cassie's help, he destroys and eventually disappears from Cassie and Vlad's sight. Its hinted that the government was now interested in his work.
West is a main character in the Zenescope Entertainment comic Chronicles of Doctor Herbert West, essentially a modern retelling of the Lovecraftian novel in which the hidden narrator is now Megan, who is his lover and girlfriend while in his college years, and his obsession with death is now explained as the byproduct of a childhood trauma: while going to Church with his devout family, he saw his mother and sister run over by a bus. He renounces the idea of an immortal soul reaching a heavenly afterlife, swearing he'll find a way to bring back his loved ones. It appears to currently be on hiatus.
The online flash game Deanimator is based on H. P. Lovecraft's original character.
The Splatterhouse video game series features a mad scientist called "Dr. Henry West", owner of "West Mansion", the setting for the series. This Dr. West was also conducting experiments to resurrect the dead.
Herbert West is a main character in the hentai anime Mystery of the Necronomicon. Before he is revealed as a modern-day Herbert West continuing his horrible experiments, he disguises himself as "Toshiaki Nezu", a book collector.
The Lovecraft-based anime series Demonbane reimagines Herbert West as a guitar-playing lunatic mad scientist.
West is a main character in the Japanese video game Operation Darkness, a WWII-era tactical-RPG/third-person shooter about an Allied special forces unit that possess supernatural abilities. West is the team medic. (In the English version of the game, West is renamed "Herbert East.")
In the video game Obscure 2, the player picks up a keycard in the hospital belonging to a man named Herbert West.
Lovecraft, Howard P. (1986) . "Herbert West—Reanimator". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN0-87054-039-4. Definitive version.
Lovecraft, Howard P. (1999) . "Herbert West—Reanimator". In S. T. Joshi and Peter Cannon (eds.). More Annotated Lovecraft (1st ed.). New York City, NY: Dell. ISBN0-440-50875-4. With explanatory footnotes.