Going into Bride of Re-Animator, director Brian Yuzna had previously made a polarizing first impression with his debut feature Society. That film is now regarded as a cult classic, but like a fine wine, it got better with age (as do most movies which involve ‘shunting’). However, given his involvement with the first Re-Animator, it made sense to give the reigns to Yuzna for the sequel. Initially, Stuart Gordon was supposed to co-write the script; but his planned duration of six months of focus did not comply with Wild Street Pictures’ requirements; they wanted it out quickly, so Yuzna would turn to his Society co-scribes Ricky Fry and Woody Keith to help churn out a screenplay before the scheduled pre-production.
The original script was much loonier than the one they would eventually use – which is really saying something considering how demented a film Bride of Re-Animator turned out to be. But imagine a Re-Animator movie set in the basement of the White House, with dead presidents the subjects of Herbert West’s unnatural experiments. That was the original concept in mind, but unfortunately it didn’t come into fruition. With Society, Yuzna and co. showed they had a knack for satire with their commentary on class division and wealth; but just imagine those same deviant minds with political aspirations…
Despite not getting to make the film they originally devised, Bride of Re-Animator is by no means a poor substitute; nor is it a lacklustre sequel to one of the most beloved horror comedies of all time. Although not quite as finessed and refined as Stuart Gordon’s classic, Bride certainly matches it in terms of creative ideas and visceral enjoyment. For this film, Lovecraft’s short story The Horror From The Shadows, William Castle’s House On Haunted Hill, and James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein would serve as key inspirations – the latter being the most prominent influence, evident both in the name and the story – along with the tragic romantic sub-plot that beleaguers the conflicted existence of one of its central protagonists.
The story takes place eight months after the events of the first film, and opens with West (Jeffrey Combs) and Cain (David Gale) carrying out their work on a war-ravaged battlefield in Peru, where they’re serving as medics and helping themselves to the body parts of deceased soldiers. Later, when they find themselves back in America, a hospital morgue located conveniently near a cemetery plays host to their experiments – and the chaos that ensues afterwards. And, as if the dead running amok isn’t troublesome enough, the vengeful severed head of Dr. Hill (David Gale) is flying around on a bat body seeking retribution against West; a police officer with a grudge against West and Cain is on their tail as he blames them for his wife’s death; and the resurrection of Cain’s girlfriend – through the assembly of stitched together body parts of other women – isn’t quite working out as planned, and she doesn’t take kindly to his new flame either. Needless to say, the movie is eventful.
Following a film like Re-Animator was never going to be an easy task, but Bride is admirable in its efforts to retain its predecessors spirt, while expanding on the concepts. The spirit of the original is Not to mention, Yuzna delivers the goods when it comes to splatter, laughs and moments of sheer unbridled madness. There are moments where the film is incoherent, but never to its detriment; with so many wild ideas on display, not everything was going to gel smoothly, but occasional lapses in logic can be forgiven when the results are this entertaining – and Bride of Re-Animator never ceases to enthral.
As a spectacle, Bride of Re-Animator boasts some outstanding special effects courtesy of Screaming Mad George, whose work has lent the majority of Yuzna’s films their unique, gross identity. In addition, we’re also treated to a stop motion finger-eyeball-spider monster and other delights that are best left for you to experience first-hand if you haven’t seen the film yet; those who have can attest that it’s an effects-laden showcase – especially for its budget and time period.
All in all, Bride of Re-Animator doesn’t quite reach the all-time great heights of its predecessor, but it’s a more than worthy sequel that honors its legacy and creates its own. In the first film, bringing the dead back to life in their original form was the object of West and Cain’s outlandish experiments; in the sequel their agenda is to create new life, by using any parts they can stitch together. This is a fitting metaphor for the Re-Animator franchise: a series which retained its fundamental core elements, while adding new components which gave each film its own unique identity. Bride of Re-Animator sought to evolve the series with subtle nuances. And thankfully, the risks paid off. For a fun, schlocky good time, there aren’t many movies better than this unhinged gem.
The 2K restoration looks good for the most part. While occasional grain is present during some of the darker sections, the colorful scenes are particularly vibrant and illuminated, especially during the films gore-splattered moments. Arrow’s Blu-ray transfer is presented 1080p HD, and is without a doubt the clearest the film has looked on any of its home media release presentations until now. Aside from a few shadowy scenes, it’s a fantastic restoration fans are bound to appreciate,
The audio package on the Blu-ray is presented in the film’s original 2.0 audio with uncompressed PCM. This ensures the film retains its originally purity, and the dialogue, music and sound effects complement each other clearly and sufficiently. However, the Psycho-esque theme by Richard Band sounds particularly impressive during the opening credits.
Arrow has presented an array of special features fans will find have a wonderful time checking out. There are three commentary tracks to pick from with the director, stars and crew all contributing. Director Brian Yuzna’s commentary is the highlight, as he gives a reflective and insightful account of the film. There is also a featurette featuring Yuzna looking back at the making of the film, along with another featuring the special effects artists involved, including Screaming Mad George and Robert Kurtzman. The 3-disc collection includes both the R rated and unrated versions of the film, along with the comic book Dawn of Re-Animator, which served as a prequel to Stuart Gordon’s original movie. In addition, there are deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.
Bride of Re-Animator is a highly enjoyable sequel to one of the most celebrated horror films of the ‘80s. While the film is rough around the edges in places, it endears itself by being funny, gross and completely deranged. The Arrow package is quite magnificent and an essential purchase for fans and the perfect jump on point for newcomers, as it’s never looked better. Not to mention it comes loaded with special features and treats. Highly recommended.