Date. Mate. Re-Animate.
After four years of waiting, Re-Animator fans were given a treat by producer/director Brian Yuzna in 1989. Bride Of Re-Animator was unleashed on fans through the medium of something called "VHS" (I hear that it was something of a novelty back in the '80s and '90s…I'm sure if I get my Dad around a campfire he might tell the stories of the "Video Cassette Recorders" of yesteryear) and was pretty well received by fans of the original. Although not completely up to par as the original Re-Animator, this was still a film that had plenty to ogle at in the way of decapitations, mutilations and crawling eyeballs…and yes ma'am, I did say crawlin' eyeballs. However, it might be said that the DVD itself maybe ranks better than the film does.
Facts of the Case
Like Van Halen singer David Lee Roth, Herbert West (Jeffery Combs) has a way of popping up, just when you thought he was finished for good. Eight months after the Miskatonic Massacre, Doctors Daniel Cain (Bruce Abbott) and Herbert West (Combs) are the only survivors of the grisly event that took the lives of Dean Alan Halsey and his daughter, Megan Halsey. After a stint in Peru as war surgeons (because, as we all know, after a horrible massacre the only place left to go is the relaxing and uplifting war torn Peru!) the good doctors make their way back to Miskatonic to continue their experiments with life and death and what happens when a really cranky zombie is woken up after just settling down for a complete-winters nap. This does not bode well for…well, for everyone, really.
At the same time, Lieutenant Leslie Chapman (Claude Earl Jones) of the Arkham Police Department is re-opening the Miskatonic case that also took the life of Doctor Carl Hill (you all remember Dr. Hill, don't you? He was decapitated in the last movie, and not only that, he actually FINISHED THE LAST MOVIE ALIVE!) Well, guess what? As only the movies can show us (and believe me, this time that's a blessing), Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) is back! Oh yeah, but it's just his head returning this time. And who among you out there doesn't want to see that, eh? Huh?
That's what I thought.
As for the title Bride Of Re-Animator, it takes its reference from the 1930s James Whales classic Bride Of Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff. In that one, Dr. Frankenstein was trying to create a mate for the monster. In Bride Of Re-Animator, Dr. West is attempting to create a mate for Dr. Cain by piecing dead body parts together, starting with Dr. Cain's dead girlfriends heart (got all that?)
Needless to say, chaos resumes, heads fly, blood squirts, we clean up, we go home nauseous.
For a sequel, you can do a lot, and I mean A LOT worse than Bride Of Re-Animator. If you don't believe me rent Beyond The Poseidon Adventure. Now, I realize that I am a bit biased. I loved the original Re-Animator. The icing on the cake for this one was that they got Jeffery Combs, Bruce Abbott and David Gale all to return for the sequel.
This film has a lot of style to it with the way that it's shot. There are predominant uses of green light and mist that set the mood. Oft times Bride Of Re-Animator has that feeling of what it's like to be under florescent lights for a long period of time. It gives the film a nice feel of uneasiness, and works to it's advantage.
The acting is far above average, especially considering that this is a film that was made to go "straight-to-video." Jeffery Combs once again turns in a performance of the mad Dr. West that is so tight you wonder why he didn't break into mainstream Hollywood films. The rest of the cast rises (n'yuck n'yuck…get it?) to the occasion with wonderfully offbeat performances, including David Gale who actually simulates oral sex while being just a decapitated head.
After going back and re-reading that last sentence, I'm thinking I need to review a Disney movie next.
For a made-for-video feature, Bride Of Re-Animator has a lot of good things going for it. The sets…the effects…everything seems to be very well done. One of the bonus features of this DVD is the fact that they give you both the R-rated version and the uncut/unrated version as well. This is all of one minute of difference. I wasn't able to spot all the places where there were differences in the two, but you can bet it's not in the acting. There's gonna be an extra liver or intestine somewhere to have shot it on up to an unrated level.
This disc also features the first time that a DVD has been offered the option of using a "matting" format for viewing purposes. Let me explain: Bride Of Re-Animator was originally shot as a full frame feature. However, this DVD allows you to watch it that way (the way it was intended by the director) or with "mattes" on the top and bottom of the screen, which actually cuts off part of the picture. I have to say, I am guilty of using the matte. Even though I realize that the film was shot full frame, there is still the thrill of seeing it widescreen, even if that wasn't the original way it was meant to be seen. If I even need to mention that this DVD is obviously not anamorphic, then you should be smacked on the potatoes and your DVD player taken away from you forever.
Also included are two audio commentaries, one with actors Bruce Abbott and Jeffery Combs, and the second with the cast and crew of the film, including Combs, the director Brian Yuzna and the special effects team (Howard Berger, Screaming Mad George, Carl Buechler, et cetera) The commentaries are fun to listen to and an enjoyable extra to have. The actors commentaries tend to be more humorous and light, whereas the crew commentary seems to be more informative and descriptive. Overall 2 nice commentaries with interesting humor and insight into the film.
The soundtrack is a Dolby Digital mono (from what I can tell) and works decently. Like the first film, nothing great, nothing bad…just there. If you're looking for something to give your speakers a good workout, you'd be better off taking them to a gym and placing them under a weight machine with a spotter, as this disc ain't gonna do it.
There are also some interesting behind-the-scenes footage including coverage on the make-up effects for Bride Of Re-Animator by the guys who did A Nightmare On Elm Street andEvil Dead 2:Dead By Dawn. Also there are rehearsals, outtakes (and deleted scenes), bloopers and cast interviews for your viewing pleasure. There are some good moments on this, but if you're are not a fan of the Re-Animator films it will probably be something you'll blow right through. I enjoyed it, yet I also enjoyed Problem Child 2, and that ain't saying much.
Finally, we have some conceptual drawings, promotional materials, photos and a prop gallery. Refer to last paragraph for my feelings on these extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When I think of Bride Of Re-Animator, I am reminded of a blurb I read somewhere in a review for Psycho II. It said (and I'm paraphrasing)…"…and compared to the original…oh, it could have been so much worse." Yes, Bride Of Re-Animator doesn't come as close to perfection as the original. but it does have some quirky qualities that make it worth seeing (and for me, even worth owning.)
The picture quality on this DVD is below average on the unrated version, and the R-rated version does not fare much better. For a somewhat recent film (1989) it seems to me that they could have dug up a better print, or at least cleaned it up. It's not as bad as those ten zillion different DVD copies of Night Of The Living Dead that we see floating around the stores, but it could have been a much cleaner print. Very disappointing.
I hear that there might end up being a new Re-Animator film on the horizon. I think it's time to stop at number 2. Bride Of Re-Animator is a nice way to end a good storyline about re-animation and the no no's that go along with it. As for the DVD, I give it high marks for its supplements, but for the picture quality, as my Dad used to say "I'm not mad. I'm just disappointed."
Overall a good DVD with promise. Free on bail until it cleans up its act.
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Scales of Justice
• Both R-rated and Unrated Versions of the Film
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