New to Blu: Arrow Video: Bride of Re-Animator

Andrew reviews the disappointing sequel to Re-Animator.

Mmmmm. I can't wait to snort this crap. 
Stuart Gordon's 1985 cult horror comedy take on H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West-Reanimator starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott and David Gale was an unrated theatrical tongue-in-cheek smash hit spoken of the same breath as Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II.  A goofball mixture of cartoonishly colorful gore, sharply drawn characters and gallows humor, the low budget yarn about reanimating dead body parts which aren't too pleased about being brought back from their infinite sleep is one of the best B movies of the 1980s and an enduring cult classic.  The film was produced by Brian Yuzna who himself took on the task of directing with his 1989 gross out black comedy Society.  After taking over production from Stuart Gordon, what would soon become Brian Yuzna's second feature became the highly anticipated and ultimately disappointing sequel to Gordon's cult favorite, Bride of Re-Animator.  In short, Stuart Gordon's team which spent years of planning the first Re-Animator were junked in favor of Yuzna's team of writers, Rick Fry and Woody Keith from Society, in a screenplay that was whipped together quickly.  The result is a less than funny romp that's more about the gore than the ideas, faithfulness to the characters and for all the unrated moments which stick out like a sore thumb due to image quality differences indicating every MPAA trim requested, this never once comes close to the transgressive jolt the first film gave with a vengeance.  Where the first one was undeniably memorable for it's perverse and twisted sense of humor, Bride of Re-Animator is something of a disengaging slog that will travel in one ear and out the other before being forgotten.

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What are you looking at, bitch?
A real shame as the first film is one of the funniest dark horror gross out comedies of the 1980s.  What could have been a surefire success in the right hands is mishandled by a directing team who, frankly, doesn't have much to offer beyond the gore factor.  In Society, Necronomicon and The Dentist, I get the feeling developing characters you can care about or a picture whose story you can invest in simply aren't his bag.  I chuckled maybe once during Bride of Re-Animator but was otherwise mostly bored and wondering what might have been if Stuart Gordon stayed on board.  Outside of an opening gag with a floating head recalling the opening sequence to Zardoz, a flying head with bat ears and a revived bride who confesses it's love by ripping the heart out of it's own chest, Bride of Re-Animator meanders and even with the original cast members back in action still fails to engage the viewer.  The KNB effects team clearly had a great time making this, including some stop motion effects gags reminiscent of Thing from The Addams Family.  Some scenes display elements of creepiness but where Gordon's film perfected the tightrope walk between horror and hilarity, I kept waiting for genuinely sick humor which never arrived with Yuzna's straight laced effort.

Eat my own heart out!
Sure it's silly and fun but Yuzna's movies in general are so stiff that whatever spirit inhabited the first film has been exorcised out of this one.  Die hard horror fans will argue there's a lot more creativity on display here thanks to KNB that I'm giving it credit for, but I stand by my opinion that I got a real kick out of Re-Animator and came up empty handed here.  Unlike Re-Animator which also is noted for feeling like a professional production despite being made on a low budget, there's an undeniable element of cheapness permeating Yuzna's film and I have to say having seen more than one of his movies, I think he's better suited at producing or writing a film than taking on the act of directing it.  His movies tend to sit there onscreen, displaying lots of gore but never reaching out to grab me with a compelling hook whether it be horrific, comic or both.  He knows where to point the camera, how to set up a scene, how to serve up the blood and guts...and you can stop right there.  

It's kind of a dull stillborn which hastily rehashes tropes from the first film without knowing what made them so funny in the first place.  Yes Arrow Video's blu-ray set outdoes itself in terms of extras and jacket design, but if the film in question ultimately eludes a bona fide fan of the original, what's the point?


- Andrew Kotwicki