Dead things coming back to life may well be all de-rigueur in the present time, drenching TV screams with the likes of Walking Dead and Z-Nation and films such as Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and the forthcoming World War Z 2 being increasingly popular, but for me the golden era was definitely 1985. It’s the year that I just about was old enough to snuck into the cinema and relish in the delights of George Romero’s seminal Day Of The Dead, Dan O’Bannon’s Return Of The Living Dead and Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator. All three of these films heightened my love of all things deceased and it’s movies like this that no doubt had I and others relishing a love of all things necrotic. Sequels of course were always going to follow and although many attempts are a shadow of their former selves, the tongue in cheek Bride Of Re-Animator did a brilliant job of upping the gruesome relish and irreverent humour of its predecessor and delivered the goods with panache. Released in 1989, it saw original director Gordon vacating the helm to be replaced by the film’s producer Brian Yuzna, who in the same year had also delivered another classic cult film to be, Society.
After the Miskatonic Massacre of the first film we find our intrepid revivers of rigor mortis Herbert West (Jeffery Coombs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) holed up in a medical tent in the midst of a Peruvian revolution. The opening scenes are surprisingly gory, talk about creating an impact at the start and there are no shortage of soon to be deceased for West to experiment on with his special dayglo-green reagent. Just managing to escape with their lives the gruesome twosome somehow manage to return to Miskatonic Uni hospital where they amazingly (how it is never explained) get their jobs back! They also move into an old house right next door to an cemetery. On their tail is Lt Leslie Chapman (Claude Earl Jones) whose wife is a resurrected cabbage following previous exploits. In charge at the hospital is the fittingly named Dr Graves (Mel Stewart) who is himself intrigued by the stock of body parts and green liquid left over from the first film in his cold storage unit. Lt Chapman has gone and unearthed a well preserved head found in a carnival sideshow belonging to none other than Dr Carl Hill (David Gale) West’s nemesis from the first film and wonders what will happen if he injects it with the re-agent? He may well be a bit stupid but the audience isn’t and everyone can tell that this is not going to end well. Throw in a Bride Of Frankenstein sub-plot as West and Cain meld body parts of the recently deceased together to create new life, a new love interest for Cain and all manner of bizarre creations courtesy of the ever reliable Screaming Mad George along with KNBFX Team and you have a non-stop rollercoaster ride of sick, humorous, over the top splatter.
The interplay between the ever driven West and cuckolded Cain is a delight to watch as it expands, in much the way it did in the first film. Coombs plays West in a really humorous deadpan fashion and he gets the chance to really shine delivering some great understated lines. The film is completely grizzly and although the ‘bride’ theme is one that is well known to any horror aficionado it is done in a way that will delight fans from James Whale’s original right through to Frank Henenlotter’s soon to hit the screen parody Frankenhooker. If you are looking for a straight horror film full of terror this is not it. Bride is largely played for laughs but in many ways done so for a core horror audience. Many average cinema goers wandering into this by accident would be likely to have fled (as they did in the 1st one) appalled by the sick sense of humour as much as the overabundance of claret. The ending builds into a delirious frenzy of ghoulish delight and when the curtain dramatically falls you can’t help wondering if that is it for our medical deviants? Of course they reappear incarcerated in Yuzna’s 2003 Beyond Re-Animator making it a trilogy but that was it. It appears to have not been re-animated, remade or re-worked into future TV series or films yet; but no doubt it’s only a matter of time.
Arrow have released this in a similar package design to Yuzna’s Society. I have yet to pick one up and re-watched this old favourite via a preview disc of the Unrated cut. The full set also comes with the R-Rated film version which although trimmed of some of the gore has a very similar running time. It looks bloody lovely and this was noted straight off in the Peruvian medical scene, the gore is incredibly lurid and the quality of the print throughout is the best I have ever seen it. I also got a green glowing syringe pen with my copy which is a nice touch, the full release comes with a “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”. Time to head off to the extras!
First up a short trip down memory lane courtesy of director Brian Yuzna. Originally he had intended to do another Lovecraft adaptation such as Dagon (which followed in 2001) but decided to go and revisit Re-Animator. The script and ideas at first were much different than the way the film turned out and sound absolutely insane but for various reasons with a short time frame Bride was born and it did fairly well too winning Fangoria awards and apparently bettering previous work Society. After this it’s a piece on the sfx team with Robert Kurtzman of KNB, Screaming Mad George, Tony Doublin and John Buechler. The reason there were so many people involved is due to the sheer amount of work, gags and models needed, something you will appreciate having seen the film. The participants discuss what aspects they were in charge of as well as giving insights into how effects are achieved. Naturally it’s all pre CGI and done old school and all the better for it as far as the technicians and no doubt the audience are concerned. Next it’s archive making of feature which is a bit more in depth and mainly focussed on model and effects creation. There’s a couple of deleted scenes including a Meg reanimation following directly on from the previous film along with a look at the making of them. Finally we get a commentary track with Coombs and Abbott. Although I have not had a chance to check it out it seems the R rated cut also has a behind The Scenes reel with it as well so plenty of extra material to go through.
Dr West created what no man’s mind nor woman’s womb could ever hope to achieve here and Arrow have done a great job in resurrecting this cult classic again. Now if only he had managed to bring back HP Lovecraft, it would be interesting to hear what he thought of Gordon and Yuzna’s trilogy of his work but I doubt he’s spinning in his grave about the films.