Bride of Re-Animator, 1989.
Directed by Brian Yuzna.
Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, David Gale, Claude Earl Jones, Fabiana Udenio, Kathleen Kinmont, Mel Stewart.
Herbert West and his assistant Dan Cain discover how to re-animate dead tissue from individual body parts and set about creating their own ‘perfect’ woman.
Right then, now we’re talking. You can forget all of that found footage, melting ghost face, jump-scare-every-few-minutes nonsense that passes for horror at the moment as Arrow Video are bringing out the big guns with this dual format special edition of Bride of Re-Animator, Brian Yuzna’s sequel to Stuart Gordon’s horror comedy classic Re-Animator.
Despite being based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Reanimator short story, Re-Animator was essentially Frankenstein retold for the 1980s, with Jeffrey Combs’ Herbert West chillingly close to Peter Cushing’s matter-of-fact take on Baron Frankenstein and played totally serious against a backdrop of absurdity and over-the-top splatter. Naturally, a sequel was going to go down the Bride of… route and here Re-Animator producer Brian Yuzna takes over directing duties as West and fellow doctor Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) are now working as medics in civil war-torn Peru. Still trying to crack the secrets of life, West wants to create a ‘perfect’ specimen from assembled body parts instead of reviving whole corpses, an idea he has whilst trying to save the limbs of injured soldiers.
Once back in America and again working at the Miskatonic Hospital the two doctors try to continue their experiments but hot on their trail is bullish detective Lieutenant Chapham (Claude Earl Jones), whose wife is in a zombified state due to West’s previous adventures, and also the disembodied head of Dr. Hill (David Gale), still seeking revenge on West and now helped along by having bat’s wings grafted onto him. Add to that Cain has a new girlfriend and is distraught at the death of a terminally ill patient and all the pieces are in place for West to run riot with his crazy ideas.
The fact that Brian Yuzna, Jeffery Combs, Bruce Abbott and David Gale worked on the first film is what makes Bride of Re-Animator work as well as it does because if this had been handed over to somebody who wasn’t so involved the results could have been very different. The performance of the two leads and Yuzna’s frenetic direction help to maintain the tone and feel that made Re-Animator such a notable movie amongst a slew of tired slasher sequels, something that Brian Yuzna alludes to in the special features by saying that when the first film was made nobody had a clue what it would turn out like but here they had something to work to. Jeffrey Combs is once again the standout as Herbert West, an unstoppable force that believes he is doing good yet causes an outrageous amount of destruction in trying to do so, and Bruce Abbott is solid as Dan Cain, although he feels a little sappier in this film than last time. However, this time there is no Barbara Crampton or Carolyn Purdy-Gordon to offer the strong support they did in the first film, with only Claude Earl Jones making any impression as the Columbo-esque Lieutenant Chapham but once the obvious happens to him the character loses the impact that he has during his first few scenes. Fabiana Udenio plays Dan’s girlfriend Francesca and may as well not be in it as all she does is whine and cry, and she feels like one character too many by the time the finale comes around. Of course, David Gale returns and seems to be having fun – who wouldn’t be, playing a flying decapitated head? – but his appearance feels a little tacked on, a bit like throwing in a dinner scene in a Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequel just because it’s in the first one. The film doesn’t lose anything for him being there but aside from the sheer lunacy of seeing a floating head with bat wings on it, there’s no real need for Dr. Hill to be in it, although Brian Yuzna does comment in the interview that Hill’s inclusion was instigated by David Gale just wanting to be in the film rather than the character being necessary. It’s just a shame that it feels that way a little too much.
But otherwise, the gore is plentiful and totally gratuitous – as you would expect from an ‘80s splatter comedy with the likes of KNB EFX (The Walking Dead/Sin City), Screaming Mad George (Society/A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) and John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood) creating the necessary carnage – and the straight-faced one-liners from Jeffrey Combs still hit home (“Make a note of it, Dan” he says during the bride’s meltdown. “Tissue rejection.”), but in replicating the original’s tone it does lose the freshness that film had. The 2K restoration is much-needed as all previous DVD versions were straight VHS rips that looked terrible, and whilst it isn’t totally gleaming and pristine, no doubt thanks to shoddy source materials, it is an improvement and gives you a chance to see some subtleties in the make-up effects that weren’t visible before. As well as a new interview with Brian Yuzna there is also an interesting featurette containing interviews with John Carl Buechler, Screaming Mad George, Robert Kurtzman and others about the special effects used in the film, plus an archive ‘making-of’, trailers and audio commentaries with Brian Yuzna and Jeffrey Combs, all bundled up in a rather tasty box set. So overall, Bride of Re-Animator is terrific fun and captures the manic spirit of the original, only slightly less so, but this set is still worth picking up for an evening of quality ‘80s splatstick entertainment, especially if you fancy upgrading your old DVD copy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
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