AKA RE-ANIMATOR 2
ON DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY AND DVD: 11TH APRIL, from ARROW VIDEO
RUNNING TIME: 96 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Eight months after the events of Re-Animator, Herbert West and Dan Cain are working as medics in the middle of a Peruvian civil war. With plenty of casualties to work on, they are free to experiment with West’s re-animation reagent. Their medical tent is stormed by the enemy troops, so they return home to Arkham, Massachusetts, where they resume their former jobs as doctors at Miskatonic University Hospital, and West returns to the basement laboratory of Cain’s house to continue his research. Using parts pilfered from both the hospital’s morgue and from the cemetery conveniently located next door, he discovers that his reagent can re-animate body parts by themselves and becomes determined to create an entire living person from disparate body parts. West doesn’t want to be involved, but then West discovers the heart of Megan Halsey, Cain’s fiancée, in the morgue and changes his mind….
I hadn’t seen Bride Of Re-Animator for about twenty years prior to viewing the film on Arrow’s stonking new Blu-ray release of the film, but remembered a few disparate images alongside a vague recollection that it was good gory fun but not a patch on Re-Animator, which remains one of the best horror comedies there is. Upon watching it again, I think that my feelings about the movie are pretty much the same. Taken on its own, it’s a decent comedy horror flick boasting a whole array of great practical effects which do make the film something to cherish in today’s CG-dominated world, plus some startling images, but it does fall far short of its predecessor. Despite director Brian Yuzna saying that he wanted to advance the story, it basically comes off as a remake of Re-Animator with a few grotesque new things thrown in. It lacks the first film’s swift narrative drive and bizarre kind of logic, opting for a more scattershot approach, while there’s pretty much no sense of fear this time around too, but it still manages to deliver a bloody good time.
Yuzna, who had produced Re-Animator, held the rights to a sequel and used this as leverage for a two picture deal with independent producer Keith Whalley, the first of which turned into Society. His first treatment had Cain keeping a re-animated Meg chained up and then being kidnapped and taken to the basement of the White House where West has re-animated the dead Ronald Reagen [who actually had recently been shot in real life]. When a script had to be delivered in two months because of a tight pre-production schedule and the possibility of funding falling through, Yuzna got Rick Fry and Woody Keith to help him and bang one out, the producers basically leaving them to it. Barbara Crampton did not return, her agent convincing her not to take a cameo appearance, but David Gale actually rang Yuzna and asked to be in the film, the script being accordingly rewritten again, but was later disappointed that he had no wardrobe and spent the film as a severed head. A planned scene of Hill’s head showing up as an attraction at a carnival was never shot, while an opening of West trying to re-animate Meg was filmed but not used, though rumours persist that it appeared in a DVD release of the film. The ‘R’ rated cut, which was what was also shown in the UK, was only a few seconds shorter than the uncut version, Yuzna shooting some alternate versions of bloody scenes so they would be less gory and sometimes obscured, rather than having the MPAA drastically cut down the running time.
Now one thing that is immediately obvious about this sequel is that much of it doesn’t make much sense if you think of the first film. West has apparently survived that intestinal attack, Cain still hangs out with West when he’s the one that cost him his love, and who the hell upgraded these two idiots to full fledged doctors after the fiasco they caused in the first one? Daftest of all is that we all saw Hill’s head squashed like a grapefruit with his eyes poped and his brains pouring out, yet it’s now intact. If you listen carefully, a few of the plotholes are partly explained but it does feel like Yuzna and co. sat down to write as much crazy stuff as their crazy minds would let them, and then ran out of time when they realised that they had an earlier movie to link to. And why do they keep re animating people when they know full well they are going to come back to life crazy and homicidal? West and Dan always seem so surprised after the re animated subject awakes in a violent rage and attacks them. It happens every time, so I don’t quite get their reactions. Anyway, introducing our anti-heroes, after a intro featuring Hill’s disembodied head, as medics in the middle of a war is a great idea and I almost wish that the whole film had been about this. It’s one of several elements from the H.P.Lovecraft Herbert West, Re-Animator short stories that weren’t used in Re-Animator but which appear now, alongside other cool ideas like the scientists’ mortuary abode abutting the cemetery, though it soon becomes apparent that the writers are using the first film’s screenplay as a model and are just tweaking things here and there.
So once again West is making liberal use of corpses in his experiments and Cain is aiding him, while a more dastardly doctor elsewhere in the hospital is up to similar business and even has Hill’s head! There’s much rehashing of earlier scenes, like a dog attack and death very similar to the earlier film’s hilarious cat stuff, though here the animal ends up with a human arm. The tone is very light, and occasionally a scene will really hit the mark like when Leslie Chapman, the nosey cop who keeps showing up, is in Cain’s front room and a ‘thing’ which West has just brought to life which consists of an eye with four fingers and a thumb attached to it is running around and we don’t want Chapman to notice it, which he fails to do so even when he accidently crushes it to death with a book. Later on, West tickles the severed foot of a woman which is attached to a man’s hand at the end of it, only for it to turn savage and attack him! A subplot of Cain forming some attachment to a patient dying of cancer is rather mishandled though because we’re supposed to feel moved by the tragedy of the situation but aren’t allowed to work out whether the bond that Cain forms with her is genuine from his point of view or whether he just wants her to die so her body can be used with Meg’s heart in some way. I wish that the script had explored a bit more the torn state of mind of Cain, who is obsessed with Meg but who also embarks on a relationship with a living female who you just know is going to venture where she shouldn’t go.
Of course some zombies do get in on the action, and there’s an odd subplot involving a killed character who is ‘kind of’ reunited with his zombie wife when he himself is a zombie, which doesn’t really come off. In fact, truth be told, there are quite a few aspects which don’t really come off, and the script really did need more time for fine-tuning. Of course It all ends in Bride Of Frankenstein fashion, and, while we feel some pity for her, this Bride here really does look convincingly gross in a film which, even if there’s less violence and actual nastiness than before, really is a treat for lovers or gruesome special effects, luminaries such as Screaming Mad George, underrated stop motion purveyor David Allen, John Buechler and those geniuses at KMB all coming together to provide a smorgasbord of severed limbs, open chests, severed limbs and the like, though there’s so much emphasis on bizarre horrific creations that at times the film threatens to become a freak show, particularly during the climax. At least Yuzna and cinematographer Rick Fichter do make this movie quite a visually stylish one, with the scenes in the laboratory in particular fun to look at with lots of green and red lighting which almost goes out of control in great fashion towards the end. Yuzna’s inexperience as a director does show in places though and sometimes he falls back on lazy devices like having deformed faces leer into the camera.
Jeffrey Combs is perhaps even better than before, really mastering his mad scientist and delivering his sardonic lines perfectly. “You’re nothing but a dead head” he says to Hill’s bonce, then hitting it with a severed arm, after which we get a shot from the point of view of Hill’s head. He’s given a great monologue near the end where the viewer is made to consider his point of view. Abbott is okay but his character is often awkwardly written. Gale again almost manages to steal the show and this is without a body this time, but I also really liked Claude Earl Jones ass Lt. Chapman; he has an amusingly leisurely way of delivery which slows the pace down considerably for his scenes but is highly enjoyable to watch. Richard Band’s score again utilises that Psycho-variant theme but re-arranges and adds quite a strong theme for Meg, though elsewhere the scoring is quite average. Lacking much in the way of cohesiveness and more a case of lots of memorable individual scenes, moments and images strewn haphazardly together than anything else, Bride Of Re-Animator still has enough good stuff in it to make one wish that Yuzna and co. had had more time to make it. Then it may really have been a work worthy of the classic that is Re-Animator.
Bride Of Re-Animator looks virtually flawless in Arrow’s Blu-ray except for a few shots. Seeing as they’re all gore shots, it seems that the original version only existed in poor condition but that they needed some shots from it to add to the ‘R’ rated cut to make the film into its original form. They are very brief though and don’t really detract from what is overall a terrific presentation despite some issues with the original film which couldn’t be got around such as poor sound recording and synching. Arrow have carried over most of the extras from the Region 1 Pioneer DVD and added a third commentary, Yuzna talking about the film, a featurette interviewing some of the effects folk which was especially interesting to watch, and two bits covering the two major deleted scenes. It’s great seeing the original hospital opening being shot, though nobody mentions anything about the scene’s reputed DVD appearence. Its lack of inclusion in its finished state would appear to indicate Arrow certainly couldn’t find it. I listened to a few minutes of each commentary, and all three seem very worthwhile. Yuzna’s solo talk track seems to be full of information, and the one featuring Combs and Abbott seems amusing as well as informative, but it’s the one with Yuzna, Combs and some of the effects guys which appears to be the best, it being such a joy to hear people like this who just love what they do and are proud of their work and had a good time doing it. Overall, this is another definitive Arrow release of a cult favourite, and is a must purchase if you like this very flawed but entertaining movie. The limited release seems to be going fast, but if you miss out, I reckon Arrow will probably re-release it without things like the comic strip and the third disc containing the ‘R’ rated but at some point in the future.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED 3-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
*Brand new 2K restorations of the Unrated and R-Rated versions of the film, approved by director Brian Yuzna
*High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
*Original Stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)
*Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
*Digipak packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
*Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth
*Re-Animator: Dawn of the Re-Animator – the official comic book prequel to the original Re-Animator
DISC 1 [BLU-RAY] & DISC 2 [DVD] – UNRATED VERSION
*Brand new 2K restoration of the Unrated version
*Brand new audio commentary with director Brian Yuzna
*Audio commentary with Brian Yuzna, star Jeffrey Combs, special effects co-ordinator Thomas Rainone and the effects team including John Buechler, Mike Deak, Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Screaming Mad George
*Audio commentary with stars Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott
*Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-Animator – brand new featurette in which the director looks back at the making of the first Re-Animator sequel
*Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-Animator – brand new FX featurette with a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Robert Kurtzman of KNB, Screaming Mad George, Tony Doublin and John Buechler
*Getting Ahead in Horror – archive making-of featurette
*Meg is Re-Animated – deleted scene with behind-the-scenes footage
*Carnival Sequence – the cast and crew discuss this excised sequence
DISC 3 [BLU-RAY] – R-RATED VERSION – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
*Brand new 2K restoration of the R-Rated version
‘RE-ANIMATOR: DAWN OF THE RE-ANIMATOR’ – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
*Perfect-bound booklet containing Re-Animator: Dawn of the Re-Animator, the 1992 comic prequel to Stuart Gordon’s original Re-Animator, reprinted in its entirety