ccording to Brian Yuzna and company, getting one's ear
bitten off doesn't mean one becomes instantly uncomfortable with the thought of,
say, getting oral sex a minute later. Or at least that's what "Beyond
Re-Animator" would have us think. Part insanity, part gross-out, and all
off-kilter, "Beyond" has a lot to offer the viewer that doesn't shy
away from, as previously mentioned, the possibility of forced oral sex in the
aftermath of getting one's ear bitten entirely off by a deranged convict who,
incidentally, one has just beaten to death with a cane in retaliation.
From what I can gather, the "Re-Animator"
franchise (there have been 3 installments so far) has a lot in common with Don
franchise. Both series debuted to little fanfare, but by the grace of that
unpredictable bedlam called fandom, has become cult favorites, replete with
diehard fans demanding their return. And like Coscarelli's films, each
"Re-Animator" installment has come over long spaces of time filled up
with, in all likelihood, earnest money raising jaunts. The original
"Re-Animator" surfaced in 1985, a sequel came in 1990, and only now,
in 2003, has a third surfaced.
"Beyond Re-Animator" finds the franchise's star
Jeffrey Combs playing Herbert West once again. West is one of those Mad
Scientist types and has been locked away in prison for his evil deeds as
chronicled in the previous two chapters. Forced to confine his re-animation
experiments (that is, bringing the dead back to life) using rats and primitive
equipment, West gets renewed enthusiasm when young doctor Howard Philips (Jason
Barry) arrives as the prison's new doctor and asks for West's assistance. Years
earlier, a young Howard witnessed one of West's creations viciously murder his
sister. You would think this would make one angry at West, but apparently not so
in young Howard's case.
Since "Beyond" is also a prison movie, we get the
inevitable archetypes associated with the genre. The (of course he's) sadistic
warden is played by Simon Andreu. There are also the usual freaks and geeks
among the prison populace, as well as a muscle bound prison guard. There's also
a nurse who shows plenty of cleavage, and a snooping reporter (Elsa Pataky) who
immediately falls for Howard and vice versa. And because "Beyond" was
shot exclusively in Spain like director Yuzna's previous film "Faust:
Love of the Damned", the majority of the actors are Spanish --
including the reporter, the warden, and probably all of the prisoners.
Most of the Spanish actors pull off their roles well
enough, but one can't help but notice that they try so hard to hide their
Spanish accent that their dialogue delivery comes across as just a tad unnatural
sounding. Still, Elsa Pataky infuses the film with some perverse sex appeal,
gracing the screen with her many assets and bottle blonde hair. Pataky is also
in the middle of most of the movie's oozing eroticism, especially since she
sleeps with Howard and is constantly fending off the lecherous warden. (FYI: I
believe Doogie Howser M.D. wannabe Jason Barry is Irish, and Combs is American.)
The star of "Beyond" is of course Jeffrey Combs,
who furrows his brow knowingly through the entire film. Combs has probably been
doing this role so long that it's second nature to him, kind of like the guys
that keeps playing James Bond. And not surprisingly, it's West's nonchalant
reactions to all of "Beyond's" insane happenings that offers up the
film's best moments. While everyone is freaking out at, say, a dead man
returning to life to take a chunk out of another man's arm, West simply looks on
with curiosity. One can imagine the character jotting down a mental note in his
head to meticulously chronicle the bloodletting.
The gist of the "Re-Animator" series is that West
is obsessed with bringing back the dead for whatever reasons. (I suppose this is
explained in the original.) His experiments have yielded a thick green glob that
is capable of bringing the dead back to life as uncontrollable monsters prone to
murderous rampage and such. While in prison, West believes he's discovered the
missing link -- an energy called NPE (or some such) that the dead yields at the
moment of death. Having learned to harness this energy, West uses it to bring
the re-animated dead back to life and re-inject some "humanity" back
into them. Of course being that West is every bit the archetype Mad Scientist,
things go awry, and soon the prison is hosting one of those all-purpose movie
riots, complete with unconvincing SWAT cops and rampaging prisoners.
In the end, bloody fun is had by all. The movie is filled
with outrageous gore, including dismemberments, decapitations, a castration,
bludgeonings, and endless hangings. Director Yuzna, who has developed something
of a reputation for making budgeted mayhem, manages some stellar special
effects. The use of bluescreen involving a prisoner with his entire lower body
missing, but with the prisoner still sprightly ticking, is one of the movie's
many highlights. Another scene, involving a decapitation that just won't come to
fruition, caps off the movie with a bang. Or is that slash?
"Beyond Re-Animator" is comedic gore at its best.
It's an excellent film for those who know what they're getting into, and will
disgust those who didn't come prepared. You've been warned.