Sequels to genuine horror originals are a predictably mixed bag and surely only a madman would attempt to follow up the late Stuart Gordon’s magnificent Re-Animator. Enter resident madman Brian Yunza – producer for a number of Gordon’s earlier works like Re-Animator, Dolls and From Beyond and the freshly minted director of the eye-popping, social horror shunt-fest, Society – who seemed like the perfect man to handle a frankly impossible and thankless job.
Taking the helm of a sequel to a movie where the horror and humor was exquisitely balanced and where every character has made it to the end credits either dead or crazy (or in some cases both) was always going to result in an inferior product; I mean, how exactly do you improve on perfection? According to Yunza, you start by hiring more special effects guys than you do cast members…
We rejoin the mismatched duo of Herbert West (prickly, conniving, obsessed) and Dan Cain (do-gooder, vulnerable, REALLY easy to manipulate) eight months after the events of the Miskatonic Morgue Massacre knee deep in gore in the middle of the Peruvian civil war with absolutely no explanation as to how Herbert survived or what happened after Dan injected his dead lover, Meg, with that glowing green re-animation fluid. The two have managed to synthesize a new batch of the reagent thanks to a breed of lizard found there and after things get too hairy, find themselves back in the States and somehow working in a hospital (what, zombie massacre didn’t make their C.V.?) with the intent to carry on their experiments but with a twist. Instead of merely bringing back the dead – because who’d wanna stop there? – Herbert has set his mind on going full Frankenstein and CREATING life from scratch because presumably it’s not worth being a mad scientist if you’re not having fun.
Herbert gets a sceptical Dan on board by promising to build his creation around Meg’s salvaged heart and they get to work scavenging body parts from any unfortunate woman who happens to expire on their shift but dark forces are moving against them in the shadows. A dogged detective following their tracks in order to get to the bottom of a traumatic personal matter and worse yet, the severed head of the lunatic Dr. Hill still has some life left in it and after convincing a haranged doctor into providing him with a rather original mode of transport (bat wings sewn on either side of his skull if you really must know…) starts plotting his dastardly revenge.
While all this is going on, West is keeping himself busy by “doodling” with human body parts while Dan is preoccupied with mooning over a terminal but pretty patient whose head Herbert already has plans for in order to complete his ghastly sculpture of the female form; but the night they choose to complete their morbid task is set to explode in an mind boggling orgy of murderous revenge, utter chaos and the jaw-dropping revelation of what exactly Herbert has locked up in the basement…
So let’s examine the hastily stitched together elephant in the room first, shall we? It’s fairly obvious from the start that the phenomenal balance between horror and humour is nowhere near as assured as the peerless original and the story is not only flimsy but doesn’t really offer anything radically new to the world created by Stuart Gordon, but for sheer boundless energy and super memorable latex creations, Bride Of Re-Animator tries endearingly hard to impress. Leaning admittedly more toward Mary Shelly than Lovecraft, the jokes here are noticeably more goofy and the film almost feels like a succession of incredibly ghoulish skits featuring the two leads desperately trying to hide their corpse related secrets from various visiting authorities like if H.P. Lovecraft had a crack at scripting an episode of Fawlty Towers. Never is this more evident in a farcical scene involving Herbert and Dan chasing an eyeball as it scampers around the home on little finger-legs as a suspicious lawman searches their premises for wrong doing and despite the subject matter, it all tends to feel little too broad.
The immortal Jeffrey Combs is still perfect as that officious little prick, West and manages to bang out some choice lines inbetween his various and vicious little schemes but sadly as Dan feels a tad surplus to requirements and alternates his time being overly sensitive (if you CAN be such a thing when you have a human jigsaw puzzle stashed in your basement) and fawning over the various female members of the cast like a mutilation heavy episode of Riverdale. However the triumphant return of David Gale as the cackling, maniacal Dr Hill is hugely welcome despite the hilariously suspect addition of winged flight to his repertoire of fiendish talents – fuck knows how, but the movie manages to pull it off.
However, one thing that Brian Yunza does well (as we witnessed in stunned awe during the last 15 minutes of Society) is to end his movies strong and when the final act gets underway and everybody (not to mention every BODY) is where it’s supposed to be, Yunza flicks the switch marked “surrealistic gore” on full and goes hell for leather to try and top the fucked up climax to his first movie. It’s a magnificently horrible testiment to everyone involved that he damn near almost succeeds as a carnival of insanity the likes of which Rob Zombie would kill for spills out of the screen and into your eye holes. Employing multiple special effects houses much in the same way some of the Elm Street sequels did, we are treated to a gaggle of misshapen, twisted after thoughts that West has been idly stitching together and brought to life simply because he can. While these things crawl and drag themselves out of their prison and Hill launches an assault with the surviving zombies left over from the first film, the boy’s experiment comes to life, all exposed musculature and visible stitching, only for her body to sustain massive (and I DO mean massive) tissue rejection. As a 15 minute blast of garish phantasmagoria it’s a breathtaking showcase for expert wielders of latex such as Greg (The Walking Dead) Nicotero and the stunningly named Screaming Mad George in a way that simply isn’t done anymore and is more that reason enough to stick this film in your player and indulge in some old school monster mayhem.
In fact the main thing that seems to be holding this Bride back is the fact that while it’s a enthusiastically spirited carnival of horrors (where else are you going to see a undead pooch with a human arm sew in place of a paw pull off a perfect handshake?), it just frustratingly isn’t anywhere in the same league as it’s predecessor despite some good scenes.
Brian Yunza gives Lovecraft the good college try but this Bride provides only a decent marriage of material…