YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE...MAYBE TWICE!
By Chris Coffel on June 2, 2016
I put off watching Bride of Re-Animator for a number of years. I did so mostly out of fear. I was well aware of the fanfare surrounding the film but I still remained skeptical. The fear behind my logic was silly at best.
See, this wasn’t a case of simply being afraid of the sequel living up to the original, oh no. That is something I don’t have a problem with. Had Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs teamed up for Bride I would have been all over that. Had neither of them been involved I would have been excited. But for some asinine reason the idea that one (Combs) without the other (Gordon) didn’t jive quite right with me. Kill me on this if you must, but remember that I readily admit this is the logic of a fool.
A few years back I finally took the plunge and watched Bride of Re-Animator and it would be an understatement to say I was pleasantly surprised. I liked the movie plenty, dare I say I even loved it. Now that the film is available on Blu-ray I decided to give it another whirl and I can now say without question that I love this movie.
Bride of Re-Animator is weird in that it has a rather simple plot that also manages to be a bit convoluted and messy. On the most basic level this is Frankenstein with Herbert West. The film takes place eight months after the Miskatonic Massacre and the events from the first film. Eight months isn’t really that much time, but a lot has happened. West (Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) are the only two survivors of the Miskatonic Massacre and somehow managed to escape without being arrested or facing any type of legal trouble. The duo now work as medics in the Internal conflict in Peru, which is perfect because this gives them plenty of bodies to experiment with and little people to ask questions. After the tent they operate out of is attacked, they decide to return home to Massachusetts where they resume working as doctors at Miskatonic University Hospital as if nothing has happened.
While working in their hidden morgue lab, West discovers that he can not only re-animate the dead but he can re-animate individual body parts. This gives him the idea to create the perfect woman! Of course he can’t carry out this work alone and most convince Cain to help. Cain is hesitant at first, but West wins him over because he has the heart of Cain’s fiancée (Barbara Crampton’s character from the first film) and his plan is use that as the heart for his perfect woman. So while West will not be bringing Cain’s fiancée back to life, the woman will have her heart so in a way it will be her and Cain is desperate to have her back.
Aside from the typical difficulties one would anticipate from re-animating the dead, a variety of other complications arise along the way. A journalist Cain met in Peru, Francesca Danelli (Fabiana Udenio), shows up in Massachusetts and her and Cain begin to date. Naturally she gets a little freaked when she discovers all the re-animating but things get really heated once the Bride is given life because she instantly falls for Cain because of her heart and thus becomes very jealous of Francesca. Now Cain is in a really tough spot as he’s torn between the living woman he is now dating and this undead monster that has the heart of his fiancée.
If Bride of Re-Animator stopped here in terms of story and plot details we would be good to go. There’s more than enough here to build a good, engaging story, but instead we have a lot more tossed in. A police officer played by Claude Earl Jones begins snooping around the university and the home of West and Cain. The dead body of the officer’s wife was animated during the Miskatonic Massacre and he suspects West and Cain are to blame since they were the only two unaffected. His snooping results he eventually becoming a zombie. That’s not all though as Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) somehow works his way back into the sequel even though he is just a head. As a head he really can’t do anything, but somehow he’s able to convince folks to do his bidding and he plans on coming after West, but his intentions are never really clear.
Bride of Re-Animator ends up bouncing around quite a bit. On one hand it’s a bizarre love triangle between Cain, the Bride and Francesca. Cain struggles with living behind his fiancée but he knows the Bride isn’t what she seems. Then we have the police officer trying to find justice for his wife and getting in way over his head. Finally there’s Dr. Hill trying to get revenge of some sort on West. Throughout all of this West is just trying to continue his experience in the name of science with what I think is an ultimate goal of playing God.
Personally I’m a little bummed the script wasn’t cleaned up a bit. All the stuff with Hill could have been removed. It serves no purpose and just gets in the way. The police officer could have stayed but been trimmed up a bit. All we needed for a great movie was West and Cain attempting to create the Bride while Cain struggles with the his love ordeal. That would have been great. Instead we have all these unnecessary ingredients that muddy things up a bit.
Flaws and all Bride of Re-Animator is still a ridiculous amount of fun! Combs sells West so hard. West will not be deterred and plans to carry out his experiments come hell or high water. He has a laser focus on his goal and nothing will get in his way. He’s really an asshole but there is something to be appreciated by his dedication to his craft. Herbert West is an absolute icon in the world of horror and Combs rocks it once again. Then you’ve got Cain who is such a conflicted man in pretty much all aspects of life. Cain has the same vision in West in that he can see the light at the end of the tunnel and what their studies can uncover, but unlike West he also sees the various roadblocks along the way that give him pause. Even with his hesitations it never really takes much for Cain to be convinced to go along with West’s experiments because at the end of the day he too is a man of science. The way West and Cain work together is so wonderful. A brilliant pairing perfectly brought to life by the performance of Combs and Abbott.
The real star of this film is the special effects wizardry courtesy of some of the best the special makeup effects world has to offer. If practical effects is your thing then this film is so for you. There are too many great effects people to list them all but when the guys working on your film contain the likes of Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero of KNB to go along with Screaming Mad George, Tony Doublin and John Buechler, well I think you kind of know you’re in for a treat. The work these masterminds accomplish in this film is amazing. The Bride looks incredible the way she’s pieced together and the way she moves is wonderful. She has these herky-jerky movements as she learns to walk. And she’s just one of many, many creations. Throughout the film we see hints of various creatures and weird designs along with your standard zombies. In the end all of these monsters come together for a finale that is pure mayhem. The car insurance company that has those mayhem commercials should use the final scene of this movie in their next ad campaign because it is complete and utter chaos that few movies are able to match.
So yeah, Bride of Re-Animator is a little overstuffed and clunky, stumbling at times as it tries to move along, sort of like the Bride herself, but it is a very worthy successor to Gordon’s Re-Animator. Much like the Demons and Demons 2 that came before it, Bride of Re-Animator is the perfect party movie.
If you’re wondering how the Arrow Video Blu-ray release holds up, I have one question for you – why would you even wonder such a silly thing? At this point Arrow has a track record you can take to the bank and they once again delivered on a breathtaking release. This limited edition 3-disc set features two Blu-rays and one DVD. You get not only the R-rated version of the film, but also the unrated version. Arrow put a lot of time and effort into this release, searching everywhere for the best possible elements. The booklet that comes with the release goes into great detail about the work Arrow put into this release and it shows. As a whole both versions look great, with the unrated version being the more even transfer. Not all elements available where in the greatest shape so there are a few moments where you see some slight color variations from scene to scene but this is all very minor. This is another gorgeous looking Blu-ray from Arrow.
If bonus features and extra content is your thing you should be more than satisfied:
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
• Behind-the-Scenes Reel
‘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
All of the special features are pretty great but I was especially fond of Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-Animator. This is a short feature, coming in at less than 10 minutes but Yuzna gives a lot of info. Two things he said here in particular stood out to me. One, he talks about how Dr. Hill’s character was basically forced in because David Gale really wanted to return. This makes a lot of sense since as I said above, there really isn’t any purpose for Hill to be here. The real kicker for me though was the original idea which had West performing his experiments under the White House! Apparently they had this idea where West was going to create a super President of sorts by taking the brain of Kennedy and the heart of somewhere and else and so on. How amazing does that sound?! I sincerely hope that is a movie we get some day.
I could blabber on and on about this release. It’s surely a contender for best of the year, right up there with Pieces and The Mutilator. Instead of doing that though, I’m going to tell you to stop reading this and go look for a copy. This is a limited release and could end up being hard to find. At the time of writing this there are still some available on Amazon. Yes, they’re about $50, but it’s worth it. Trust me, better to get this for $50 now than try in a year from now when people are selling it on eBay for an even higher amount.
Bride of Re-Animator is now available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video. To order your copy from Amazon click here!
i love the re animator series so much, never has a protagonist been so creepy as Dr. Herbert West, except maybe Hannibal lector
yes now if only i didn't have to wait a whole year for my birthday.
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