Friday, 8 April 2016

Bride of Reanimator (1989)

The sequel to Stuart Gordon's 1985 classic horror picture REANIMATOR gets an impressive / exhaustive 3-disc release from Arrow Films in a new Blu-ray / DVD dual format limited edition set that also comes with a perfect bound edition of the prequel comic Dawn of Reanimator.

Let's get something out of the way right at the start. REANIMATOR is one of the greatest horror films of all time, a frenetic and perfectly paced mix of outrageous splatter, well-timed humour and some good old-fashioned horror tropes given a delightfully enthusiastic spin. Add in some good acting, including a riveting central performance from Jeffery Combs ably assisted by some great villainy (David Gale) and an engaging, sympathetic female lead (Barbara Crampton) amongst others, and a music score that should incense with its unoriginality but actually, somehow, turns out to be the perfect accompaniment, and it's no wonder that REANIMATOR is a film that never feels old.

So, REANIMATOR is a classic.
To be honest, it's probably unfair to compare the two. While the first film is something of a case of catching lightning in a bottle, BRIDE is more an attempt by someone who has seen the lightning caught to do the same thing but doesn't really understand some of the major elements that caused that lightning to get trapped in the first place.

So what's the plot?
Eight months after escaping the end of the first film, Herbert West (still alive and not strangled by a length of large intestine as was previously suggested) and Dan Cain are in Peru, experimenting with war casualties using a version of Herbert's reanimation serum that had been modified by an extract from a species of iguana. They travel back to the US where they somehow get jobs as doctors at Miskatonic Hospital despite having caused so much havoc there as students less than a year ago (did they even qualify?). All that's left of Megan is her heart in a bag, next to Dr Hill's head in a bag, which is next to various other body parts in a cupboard in the pathology department. Herbert finds the heart and a pathologist (Mel Stewart who for some reason has a bat pinned to his bench (?) gets to play with Dr Hill's head. Herbert convinces Dan they should make a woman using Meg's heart. Herbert gets bored and randomly glues bits of bodies together. The Manchester University Atlas of Anatomy makes a guest appearance (Hooray! Seeing one of our textbooks was the best microsecond of the film for me and my friends when we saw it on its original release) and is used to crush a little scuttling thing made of fingers and an eye.

A very badly acted policeman keeps bumbling around (Claude Earl Jones in desperate need of the direction he probably didn't get). Fabiana Udenio turns up as 'the girl'. Dan makes love to her and has possibly the most appallingly uninspiring dialogue in the entire film. We don't care because we're too busy saying 'Alotta Fagina' in an AUSTIN POWERS accent every time Ms Udenio appears on screen. Kathleen Kinmont plays the bride (really quite well, actually). Dr Hill's head acquires bat wings. Everything goes mental at the end but sadly that isn't enough to save this rather insipid film.

The one really important thing BRIDE OF REANIMATOR lacks is any sense of the vitality than infused every frame of its predecessor. Dialogue is flat, and acting is even flatter. Jeffrey Combs is still great as Herbert West, but his fiddling about with body parts 'for a laugh' doesn't feel consistent with the driven-and-mad young scientist we know from the first film. In fact if anything, Herbert West seems as bored with this sequel as we are. Richard Band's music cues are very similar, but this time they couldn't afford an orchestra and so it's on synthesisers instead. Is that why it sounds so much less inspiring? Or is it just because the magic isn't there this time around? The pacing is off, everything drags, and the hole-ridden script(which is nowhere near as exuberantly daft as the first film) gets even more shown up for being, well, all a bit stupid, really. It's a shame, but one really needed someone of James Whale's talents (never mind even Stuart Gordon's) to give this BRIDE some life.
If the film itself isn't that great, Arrow's presentation, however, is second to none. BRIDE OF REANIMATOR has never looked very good on home video. The previous Tartan DVD looked like an Eastmancolor print someone had driven a car over (and sounded worse), but Arrow's Blu-ray looks crisp and vivid, so full marks to them for that. Two versions are presented here on Discs 1 (the unrated version) and 3 (the R-rated version). There's actually very little difference between the two.
Extras include three (!) commentaries - a new one by director Brian Yuzna and archival ones with Jeffery Combs and Bruce Abbott, and another with cast and crew. There's a new featurette with Yuzna and another featuring interviews with the special effects artists who worked on the film. There's a deleted scene (Meg is reanimated) and discussion of the excised carnival sequence. The same material is presented on Disc 1 (Blu-ray) and Disc 2 (DVD). Disc 3 is the R-rated cut with some behind the scenes footage as extra.
So there you go. Nowhere near as good as the first film (as is always the case unless you’re called MAD MAX 2), BRIDE OF REANIMATOR will still have the appeal of its totally insane ending for those of us who have to see everything. And now, thanks to Arrow, we can see it all in a really nice print. 

BRIDE OF REANIMATOR is coming out from Arrow Films in a limited edition Blu-ray and DVD three disc set (with some cracking artwork on the box) on 11th April 2016

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