The first Re-Animator film, under the guidance of director Stuart Gordon, combined the elegance of the classic mad scientist films of the golden age of cinema with healthy doses of splatter, sexual deviancy, and loads of campy humour. When Gordon jumped ship, leaving producer Brian Yuzna behind the lense for the film's sequel, Bride of Re-Animator, the balance of camp and horror leaned to far to the former, making for a highly unsatisfying follow-up to one of the finest horror films ever made. Now, Yuzna is back in the director's chair again, benefitting from several years experience helming films for his Fantastic Factory production company, and his return to the world of Herbert West in Beyond Re-Animator goes a long way toward making up for the ill-advised Bride by bringing back much of that b-movie charm of the original film.
The film opens with a pair of young boys camping out in their backyard. The two hear someone prowling about their property, and investigate, whereupon they discover an undead creature shaking the life out of one of the boy's sisters. As the police arrive and dispatch the zombie, the older boy witnesses the arrest of one Dr. Herbert West (Combs), who drops his re-agent as he's being forced into a squad car. The boy picks up the glowing syringe, holds it to his eye, and the screen fades to black.
Thirteen years later, we see Herbert is still up to his old tricks, albeit behind bars, as he is now performing a pared down version of his experiments on rats. When Howard Phillips (Barry), a new doctor assigned to the prison, requests West's assistance based on his medical background, it is soon revealed that Howard was that young boy who lost his sister as a result of West's work, and now wants to work alongside Herbert to perfect the re-agent he's be carrying around for 13 years. Phillips and West set up a secret lab and begin the experiments anew, with all of the proper materials Herbert needs to refabricate his re-agent. It isn't long before they get to us it, as Phillips' new love interest, nosy reporter Emily (Patakay), is murdered by the prison's sadistic warden (Andreu). West and Phillips re-animate her, using both the re-agent, and the new techniques West perfected while locked behind bars. The process seems to work, albeit with a few...err..side effects.
Beyond Re-Animator is, finally, a worthy sequel to the classic original. While not quite as over-the-top as that film, Beyond does feature it's fair share of the red stuff, including a great fight between West and an upper torso, as well as a healthy dose of T&A (although Barbara Crampton is sorely missed!). There's also a moment at the end that will make any man cringe!
Shot in Spain, where Fantastic Factory is located, the film features a rather large cast of Spanish actors, some of which seemed to be rather shoddily dubbed, but it actually works here, lending the film a sort of Euro-Shock vibe. Actually, the worst actor in the lot is probably Barry, who takes on the Bruce Abbot role here as West's second bananna. His character confused me seeing as how he seemed so intent upon working with West, and, in a matter of what seems like hours, he suddenly hate's the man, even though he knew full well what he was getting into.
The film looks marvelous, as Yuzna has apparently gotten much more comfortable behind the director's chair since Bride, and has also managed to get a lot of bang for minmal buck thanks to the Fantastic Factory's Spanish locations. Of course, no Yuzna film would be complete without the special FX work of Screaming Mad George, who's in top form here.
I really had a blast with this one, especially after the second and third viewings. It moves along at a brisk pace, and it's great to see Combs back in the role that's made him a cult hero. It looks like a big budget horror flick, even is some of the actors look as though they'd wandered onto the set, and is certainly one of the best horror flicks of 2003.
The DVD from Lion's Gate features a "special R-rated" cut of the film, in a very nice 16x9 widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. From what I can tell, their is approximately one-minute cut from the film's Unrated version, and I can't for the life of me figure out what. There's some stuff in here, especially at the end, that would easily garner an NC-17 in my mind, so my thought is why cut it at all? Still, while I'm not sure what we're missing in that excised minute, it is only a minute after all.
The DVD extras include a full-length commentary with Yuzna, a short making-of featurette, music video, and trailers. It's a very nice set for an extremely fun film that will surely satisfy the discriminating Re-Animator fan.
Oh, and definitely stick around for the credits...hahahah...