“Bride of Re-Animator”, the sequel to Stuart Gordon’s 1985 “Re-Animator”, took 5 years to show up — and truth be told, it needn’t bother. The sequel takes place 8 months after the events of the first, with Mad Scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and his reluctant assistant Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) now in Peru performing illegal experiments on dead soldiers as a civil war rages outside their medical tent. We also meet Francesca (Fabiana Udenio), a freedom fighter or some such. She has a gun and is wearing fatigues and she tells the boys that the “front line is breaking up” or something along that line, so you figure it out.
The boys fly back home, back to Miskatonic hospital, where they spend their time as doctors by day and Mad Scientists by night. Home is a renovated house in the cemetery, which makes sense considering the latest sequel “Beyond Re-Animator” opened with re-animated corpses from a nearby cemetery killing the locals. Dan is still reluctant to continue the experiments, but West convinces him to keep at it. This time around West has plans not just to re-animate corpses, but also to stitch body parts together and create a completely new life. Unfortunately for the boys, cop Claude Earl Jones is snooping around, and he has an axe to grind with West et al.
“Bride” was directed by Brian Yuzna, who was producer on the original. If you’ve read my reviews of Yuzna’s previous works (“Faust: Love of the Damned” being one of them) you know that I am not a big fan of the man’s work. I find his “style” to be amateurish and prone to unreasonable indulgence in gore for the sake of gore. Also, there is always a touch of trash to his film that doesn’t always appeal to me. With “Bride”, Yuzna’s second directorial effort, I remain unimpressed with his storytelling ability, as well as his childish preoccupation with all things grotesque.
Which isn’t to say “Bride” is a total loss. Jeffrey Combs once again chews scenery like a pro, only now there’s a strange homoerotic undercurrent to West’s preoccupation with Dan’s personal life. At one point in the film, Combs fumes in the basement as Dan is upstairs having sex with Francesca. In any case, Combs spits out his line with machine-like efficiency, using that now familiar deadpan delivery that makes him such a unique actor. Bruce Abbott still looks confused, which isn’t a surprise because his character is pretty confused. Dan is written as reluctant, and yet 8 months later he’s still working — and living! — with West. This guy really has a lot of trouble making up his mind.
The screenwriters have also neglected to put much effort into Francesca. The first time we see her she’s a freedom fighter in Peru, but she inexplicably shows up later at Dan’s hospital, claiming to be Italian. What? Also, how does someone just walk away from a civil war in Central America and return to normal life as if nothing had happened? Francesca’s sunny personality seems more appropriate for an airhead college student, not an ex-freedom fighter. She sure doesn’t seem to remember that she was fighting a bloody guerilla war just 8 months ago, that’s for sure.
Aside from the West and Cain characters, everyone else is pretty much incidental to the movie. Including Jones, whose Colombo-ish cop is revealed to have a dark secret, although why that should matter figures more into Yuzna’s perverse sense of the world than anything relevant. David Gale returns as the villain of the piece, this time sans body, although the Evil Mad Scientist (with West being just the Mad Mad Scientist, I suppose) eventually gets to move around by himself — with the aid of bat wings! The whole thing ends with a Zombies Attack sequence that has its moments, but for the most part comes across as blah — or, actually, nothing more than a remake of the first movie’s ending.
Without Combs, “Bride of Re-Animator” would be nothing more than an exercise in low-budget wackiness, with some lame attempts at comedy. Gale’s return as Carl Hill really doesn’t do much for the film — the character is barely in it anyway until the very end, and his return seems oddly uninspired. The same is true of the perfunctory (and completely nonsensical) relationship between Dan and Francesca. Kathleen Kinmont, the former Mrs. Lorenzo Lamas, plays the titular Bride of Re-Animator, but strangely the character really has little to do until almost the very end.
“Bride of Re-Animator” is obviously a joke, and nothing proves this theory more than the entire Third Act, which takes an odd turn and becomes a bad parody of “Bride of Frankenstein” — or to be more precise, a parody of the 1985 remake called “The Bride” with Sting. Dan even somehow ends up in one of those white puffy shirts. The set-up involving the Bride isn’t very interesting, I must say. In fact, much of “Bride” isn’t very interesting, as if Yuzna and company really had no idea where to take the series. A sequel for the sake of a sequel? I’m shocked! This may also explain why none of the filmmakers from the original returned for an encore.
“Bride” is lackluster, and if not for the presence of Combs, the whole thing could have been disastrous. As it stands, it’s still not very good.
Brian Yuzna (director) / Rick Fry, Woody Keith, Brian Yuzna, H.P. Lovecraft (stories)
CAST: Jeffrey Combs …. Herbert West
Bruce Abbott …. Dan Cain
Claude Earl Jones …. Lt. Leslie Chapham
Fabiana Udenio …. Francesca Danelli
David Gale …. Doctor Carl Hill
Kathleen Kinmont …. Gloria