Bride of Re-Animator

bride reanimato-rev Bride of Re-Animator  (1990)    50th Street Films/Horror-Sci-Fi-Comedy    RT: 99 minutes    Rated R (graphic violence and gore, some language, nudity, sexual content)    Director: Brian Yuzna    Screenplay: Rick Fry, Woody Keith and Brian Yuzna    Music: Richard Band    Cinematography: Rick Fichter    Release date: February 22, 1991 (New York, NY)    Director: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Claude Earl Jones, Fabiana Udenio, David Gale, Kathleen Kinmont, Mel Stewart, Irene Forrest, Michael Strasser, Mary Sheldon, Marge Turner, Johnny Legend.    Box Office: N/A

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 Bride of Re-Animator, the sequel to the 1985 horror cult classic, never opened theatrically in my neck of the woods (Philadelphia, PA). It would NOT have escaped my notice. I did manage to obtain a bootleg copy in November ’90 through a friend of a friend. It was a multiple-generation copy meaning it wasn’t all that clear. At the time, I was just glad that I saw it all. I’ve seen it two or three more times since including my Re-Animator marathon this past week. Directed by Brian Yuzna (Return of the Living Dead 3), Bride of Re-Animator is a good movie that doesn’t quite measure up to the original. The narrative is choppy; there’s a noticeable lack of cohesiveness between the plot elements. Some of it is quite good but it doesn’t fully succeed as a whole.

 bride-of-reanimatorThe story picks up eight months after the original with Dr. Herbert West (Combs) and Dr. Dan Cain (Abbott) working as medics in a bloody civil war in Peru. Immediately, I have a few questions. How did West survive the finale of the previous movie? When we last saw him, he was being dragged to his presumed demise by Dr. Hill’s mutated entrails. Considering what transpired in the first movie, how is it these guys are still practicing medicine much less not in jail? They crossed so many ethical boundaries, it’s hard to believe they came back. It turns out they didn’t. They’re still experimenting with the re-animation serum; the high casualty rate from battles gives them plenty of bodies to test it on.

 Eventually, they return to Miskatonic Hospital where Dan resumes his medical career and West continues his research. He claims to have unlocked the secret of life, that life exists in each and every one of a body’s cells. He discovers that he can re-animate body parts as well as whole bodies. He decides to create a living person from parts of different bodies- e.g. the feet of a ballerina, the legs of a hooker and the head of a dying patient (Kinmont, Halloween 4) that Dan has come to care about. Oh yeah, West also stumbles across the heart of Dan’s deceased fiancee Megan in the hospital morgue where all evidence of the “Miskatonic Massacre” (as it’s come to be known) is stored. Guess what else is in there? Yep, the severed head of Dr. Hill (Gale) which pathologist Dr. Graves (Stewart, Henry Jefferson from All in the Family) injects with the serum. He’s back!

 Making matters worse is a cop, Lt. Chapman (Jones, Evilspeak), that’s been poking around. His reasons for investigating West and Dan go beyond the scope of normal police works. He bears a personal grudge against the men; it seems his late wife was one of the re-animated corpses that wreaked bloody havoc in the climax of the last movie. There’s also a girl, Francesca (Udenio, Summer School), mixed up in the new mess caused by West’s experiments. She is Dan’s new girlfriend who he met while she was working as a journalist in Peru. She comes to the US with her pet dog (you know he’s a goner the minute you see him).

 Bride of Re-Animator has more than its fair share of gore although not on a level as extreme as its predecessor. The gore and makeup effects by Screaming Mad George are quite good. Sure, they look cheesy and fakey at times but that’s part of the fun. What it lacks in this area, it makes up for in pure craziness. West creates new lifeforms by combining body parts- e.g. four fingers with an eye on top, the dog with a human hand. The craziest one is really something. Graves surgically attaches bat wings to Hills’ head allowing him mobility, making it easier for him to go after West to get his revenge. Then there’s the woman West builds. Okay, we all know the obvious inspiration for Bride of Re-Animator is 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein, something the movie cheerfully and openly admits. Like the first movie, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and instead has fun with the genre. It winks at the audience so many times even the most unobservant viewer can’t miss it. With Combs in full mad scientist mode, you’re in for a pretty good time.

 While not perfect, Bride of Re-Animator is a reasonably satisfying sequel with a high insanity level. Well, it is based (loosely) on an H.P. Lovecraft story; I’d expect nothing less than a movie that looks and feels like it was made by residents of a madhouse.

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