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Bride of Re-Animator

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Brian Yuzna
Jeffery Combs
Bruce Abbott
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 Director Stuart Gordon was keen to leave the conclusion of Re-Animator open for a sequel, but producer Brian Yuzna decided not to bother, but to just get the first one working, since the only way a sequel could be made is if the original made money. It did well of course, so Yuzna got his Society writing partners Woody Keith & Rick Fry to whip together a script for himself to direct. Unfortunately, Bride of Re-Animator has all the symptoms of a sequel made more for commercial reasons rather than for any kind of actual need for narrative continuation.
Neatly sidestepping/ignoring the conclusion of the original film, Bride picks up a few years later as Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) move from a civil war hospital in Peru to a new shared house overlooking a cemetery. Rather implausibly, they then manage to get jobs working in the same hospital in which the events of Re-Animator occurred, & are soon up to their old tricks again.
It is nice to see the three principle actors of the first film returning – I would say the three survivors, but I’m not convinced that that would be entirely accurate. Although the film is billed as “HP Lovecraft’s Bride of Re-Animator”, it’s actually rather closer to the spirit of Shelley, with West as Frankenstein piecing together a new creation from body parts stolen from a variety of corpses. Indeed, the climax is very blatantly stolen from/a homage to Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, which is actually the best part of the film with Kathleen Kinmont (Halloween 4) actually quite affecting as the creation. She’s no Elsa Lanchester, but she does well with what she has to work with. Unfortunately, this scene suddenly tries to insert a level of emotional & dramatic weight that is completely out of synch with the rest of the film, & overbalances it somewhat.
The biggest problem with Bride is that, notably unlike Whale’s sequel, it is simply content to merely rehash all the most successful elements of the first film, but without the verve & energy that makes that film such a treat. So we’ve got West & Cain up to nefarious experiments in their basement, Cain has a new love interest (although his heart still belongs to now deceased Meg, from the first film), there’s a nosey authority figure (the incredibly dull character of the Inspector – Claude Earl Jones in a pretty dire performance) trying to get in the way, assorted Re-Animated corpses attacking people, & even Dr. Hill’s decapitated head is floating around in there too. The trouble is, we’ve seen this stuff before & the repetition adds little. I don’t know how a film with this much inventive gore can be dull, but often Yuzna gets very close. The new quirky effects (such as the eye on fingers, or the foot-hand) are certainly amusing, but they’re not around for long & have little to actually do – rendering them merely brief asides to distract from the general overfamiliarity.
Nevertheless, there is some enjoyment to be had, & as sequels go there are far worse efforts around. In particular, Combs is on brilliant form as West, possibly even bettering his performance in the original. And there are plenty of those little quirks – not to mention bags of delicious gore – to maintain interest until the pretty good climax that outdoes that in the original, & there’s also some excellent use of colour. Whilst the humour & scripting is rather more hit-and-miss than in the original, there are some supremely funny moments (“West! You stupid bi-ped!”), although some of the humour is pretty poor. Richard Band contributes an amusing reworking of his original score, adding some nice new material, although it does sound like it’s performed totally on synthesisers, which doesn’t help too much. Overall, there’s enough gore, humour, & Jeffrey Combs on show here to make it worth watching for big fans of the original, although those who are a little more ambivalent about it might not want to bother. It’s a pretty superfluous sequel & generally inessential viewing, but for late night viewing with beer & a couple of mates, you could do far worse.
The UK R0/PAL DVD from Tartan didn’t help my enjoyment of the film any. The film was shot full-frame for video, but matted to 1.85:1 for theatrical release, & unlike the US version, this is the matted version only – but the framing felt fairly natural when watching. That could be because I was far too distracted by the extremely disappointing (although anamorphic) transfer, that is far too soft, muddy & unfocused, with slightly washed out colours. The audio is an OK Dolby 2.0 track, although it seemed perhaps rather muffled at times.
For extras, we get 9 pages of notes by the director, filmos for Yuzna, Combs & Abbott, plus trailers for this & a selection of other Tartan horrors (including The Eye, Trauma & the HG Lewis collection). I can just tell you’re itching to run to the shops to buy this, but first you may be more interested in seeking out the US version (if your machine can play it), as that comes with both full-frame & matted versions, commentary, deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage & more.

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