Although the much touted Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez double bill “Grindhouse” unfortunately turned out to be a bit of a box office dud, it did have the knock-on effect of inspiring a flood of re-releases of good old fashioned exploitation fare. One company making the most of the renewed public interest in trash cinema is Tartan, who have dredged up a number of stalwart sleazy shockers from the vaults, one of which is “Bride of Re-Animator”. The sequel to Stuart Gordon’s classic 1985 H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, the 1990 film was directed by Brian Yuzna, his frequent production partner, who also worked with him on other classics such as “From Beyond” and “Dolls”. Yuzna also turned his hand to directing himself with a number of genre outings including “Return of the Living Dead 3” and “The Dentist”, as well as the recent series revival “Beyond Re-Animator”.
Offering no explanation for his survival after the events of the first film, which ended with his being dragged off by a violent reanimated pile of innards, “Bride of Re-Animator” begins with Dr. Herbert West (a returning Jeffrey Combs, whose performances as the good doctor saw him become a firm favourite of genre fans) up to his old tricks while hiding out in South America, having apparently improved upon his formula. Aided again by his vaguely reluctant sidekick Dr. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott, most of whose subsequent work was on television), he returns home to dear old Miskatonic University to carry on with his experiments, somehow managing to infiltrate the local hospital and conveniently managing to find a house with easy graveyard access. This time around West’s ambitions see him attempting not only to reanimate the dead, but to actually give life, to which end he assembles a collection of various body parts, planning to use the heart of Cain’s dead girlfriend to create his own monstrous creature.
Whilst he doesn’t quite have Gordon’s flair for the mad and macabre, Yuzna is an able genre director, and “Bride of Re-Animator” is certainly one of his best efforts, and he serves up a good helping of absurd grotesquery without pushing the film too far into comedy or away from the basic bleak horror of the premise. Unsurprisingly, the film’s main strength is in its scenes of gore and special effects, of which there are many, and Yuzna manages to keep things lively, creative, and most importantly of all, messy throughout. Without straying too far from the formula which made the first film such an enduring classic, he does succeed in adding a few touches of his own, especially during the effective and disturbing freakshow climatic scenes. Similarly, although he shies away from the same kind of perverse sexuality which Gordon managed to wring from the source material, there is still enough sleaze and decidedly aberrant behaviour on show to give the film a deliciously and inventively nasty edge.
As a result, although the law of diminishing returns inevitably holds true, “Bride of Re-Animator” is a worthy sequel, and one which offers plenty of gruesome fun guaranteed to please fans of the original or indeed of imaginative splatter cinema in general. Though this new release is not exactly a definitive one, with the only extra being the usual trailer, it is certainly a welcome one, and it is hoped that the “Grindhouse” inspired boom will see the unearthing of many other such films.
Brian Yuzna (director) / Rick Fry, Woody Keith, Brian Yuzna (screenplay), H.P. Lovecraft (characters)
CAST: Jeffrey Combs … Dr. Herbert West
Bruce Abbott … Dr. Dan Cain
Claude Earl Jones … Lt. Leslie Chapham
Fabiana Udenio … Francesca Danelli
David Gale … Doctor Carl Hill
Kathleen Kinmont … Gloria
Mel Stewart … Dr. Graves
Irene Forrest … Nurse Shelley