Bride of Re-Animator Review

Bride of Re-Animator has big shoes to fill, following the gory footprints of 1985’s much loved horror classic, Re-Animator. (Second Sight's release was recently reviewed here). For the most part, Brian Yuzna, moving chairs from Producer to Director, fails to capture the same artful insanity, but it’s still a lot of fun.

The name H.P. Lovecraft still precedes the title, but this time it’s a note of respect only. This follow-up tale about Herbert West was not specifically a Lovecraft story, but Bride of Re-Animator does continue to put the emphasis on character that the original did. That’s damning with faint praise; apparently the screenplay for this film was a rushed job when the funding came through and it does show. In one of the interviews included on Arrow’s fantastic release Yuzna comments that it was a case of throwing everything at a wall and seeing what would stick! More than anything it became a showcase for the kind of effects the previous film somewhat pioneered. A sandpit for artists.

For a decent portion of the running time, the only body-parts missing are brains and balls. Stuart Gordon’s theatrical experience gave Re-Animator structure and without it, there is a whiff of inexperienced TV movie about the sequel. The music doesn’t help. It’s the same wonderful jaunty tune from Re-Animator (sped up Psycho score), but now without a quality orchestra to deliver it. You can literally hear the budget shrinking.

The film cuts loose in the finale though and it’s worth the wait. West has been experimenting on re-animating individual limbs and joining them together and the results are astonishing. But don’t let your jaw drop too far, otherwise Herbert will more than likely wire it to a leg or something. You know the scary bit in Toy Story where Woody is trapped in Sid’s house? He finds Sid’s tortured toys, the result of plastic Frankenstein experiments, hiding under the bed. That’s Bride of Re-Animator right there, just life-sized with more blood and screaming. That much is glorious, silly fun, reminding me in some ways of the Basket Case sequels which relied on the effects guys to make the film, only there is even more talent on show here. Talent in competition with itself. Some of it is extraordinary, especially the titular Bride.

Selling it is the hard part when the writing isn’t up to the earlier standard, but you can’t go far wrong with this cast. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) and Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) are back at Miskatonic following a tour as military field doctors in Peru and now are living together in an old mortuary, as a sort of horror-themed Odd Couple. It’s eight months since the disaster and things are getting back to normal. Well, sort of. West is still developing what can be done with his serum and Dan is trying to be cautious, except he can’t resist the prospect of building a girlfriend, complete with poor Megan Halsey’s heart, now part of the still twitching detritus of West's previous escapade. Ironic really. It was Barbara Crampton’s humanity that made the original and without her, the Bride cannot quite work. She offset Dan’s character; now he’s just another insane doctor, albeit a well delivered role from Bruce Abbot again. He and Combs do work together really well.

Thankfully David Gale is also back as part of Dr. Carl Hill. But wasn’t he just a severed, crushed head at the end of Re-Animator, you ask? Yes he was, and he is still a severed head, now with bat wings! And he can fly around, while seeking revenge on West. That should tell you everything you need to know if you are going to like this sequel, especially if you thought all that was missing from the first film were bat wings. His storyline is somewhat forced in, but why wouldn’t you? Gale is a superb villain in a film that doesn’t need one.

The script is messy, with strands of plot flailing around with less grace than a corpse, and that includes the dog with a human arm. Yuzna’s direction can’t quite invest the film with any impetus, but the banter with the returning cast is reliable and there are flashes of humour before the rewarding end massacre. The newcomers fit in well. Claude Earl Jones as a detective married to a re-animated corpse and Mel Stewart, a mischievous doctor that gets tricked by a talking head. Plus there is the bride herself, Kathleen Kinmont, who has to gamely suffer being a toy for the effects department.

This new edition from Arrow Films features an excellent transfer, all things considered. It doesn't look as good as Re-Animator from Second Sight, but that's hardly a fair comparison. It was clear this was a cheaper production all round. Audio is also difficult to judge and is probably as good as possible; the original film had a superb soundtrack, but again, if you sack the orchestra and go full synth, it's going to lose some punch.

There's a great haul of extra features that show us that this film was as much fun to make as it was to watch. Maybe it doesn't measure up to its predecessor or revolutionise the horror genre, but that doesn't stop it being great fun that has a couple of tricks up its sleeve.

Bryan Yuzna remembers Bride of Re-Animator 9.37
New interview. Brian cheerfully explains how the film came about and clearly understands its limitations. His anecdote about one script idea, that would have included Meg chained up in Dan’s bedroom, was fun. Or the one with West reanimating Ronald Reagan using John F. Kennedy’s brain! In conclusion it is clear that Bride of Re-Animator was made by horror fans who now understand what Stuart Gordon was thinking. But they aren't him.

Splatter Masters 14.39
Fun look at the effects, with interviews. They had a riot with the ending of course.

Getting Ahead in Horror (original making of) 23.50
Raw b-roll footage, a lot of which focuses on David Gale, clearly enjoying himself.

Deleted Scenes 10m
Strange scene attempting to reanimate Meg at the end of the Re-Animator and another, incomplete, showing the detective finding Hill’s head in a carnival.

Commentaries
Brian Yuzna, in conversation with David Gregory - Brian’s affable enthusiasm and love for the film makes for an entertaining listen. Talks about his fondness of Lovecraft and the origins of horror and has lots of cute anecdotes, such as an errant condom during the finale! He knows it's a ridiculous film. He was just having fun, finding his way, making occasional mistakes.

Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, plus effects guys, including screaming mad George - Loads of people so it sounds like a party and as much fun as that sounds. Effects and production heavy as you'd expect.

Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbot - very funny, with tongues firmly in cheek. They spend their time largely making fun of one another, so not much to learn, but the film’s success is arguably down to their banter. So this is more of that.

Film
6 out of 10
Video
6 out of 10
Audio
6 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

Very silly, coasts along on credit, but does so with infectious enthusiasm.

7

out of 10

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