Bride of Re-Animator, Brian Yuzna’s 1989 follow-up to Stuart Gordon’s farcical Lovecraft adaptation is a strange but charming venture. If anyone was ever going to make a sequel to Gordon’s beloved 1985 cult classic, then Yuzna would be the man to do it. Yuzna’s experience with Gordon producing the original Re-Animator, alongside writing and producing credits on other 80’s B-Movies like From Beyond and Dolls, mark him as one of the founding fathers of schlocky late-night viewing; his films, and Gordon’s, have entertained all-night horror audiences for nearly thirty years, and with the recent release of the Bride of Re-Animator Blu-ray, there’s a solid alternative to seeing these films in the cinema.
Following on from the first film, Doctor’s Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) have fled Arkham to South America, where they work as battlefield medics and continue studying the effects of the mysterious reagent. After almost perishing the two return home to continue work at Miskatonic University under the suspicious eyes of the town.
Yuzna’s Re-Animator sequel lacks the plot or charm of Stuart’s original, re-treading the original’s structure without the benefit of originality. Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott make a lovable screen duo; delivering the kind of handsome frat boy/mad dweeb chemistry they had going first time around only with more love. Yuzna nails some cool ideas and develops West as more compulsively curious than ever, but apart from giving him an excuse to make more monstrosities, there’s no attempt to look at the characters or the world they live in. Perhaps Yuzna’s narrative laziness comes from a case of sequelitis; perhaps by assuming the audience is back purely out of the love for Gordon’s Re-Animator he leans too heavily on the work that has already been done, rather than really pushing the story.
However, if Bride of Re-Animator is worth watching (and it really is) it’s almost entirely for the wealth of superb effects Yuzna orchestrates throughout. It’s like Bride of Re-Animator was conceived not as a narrative sequel, but an showcase for the best of 80’s special effects royalty. The story is an arbitrary procession of events, shamelessly forgettable and essentially just a skeleton for the effects team to slather in fleshy effects. Screaming Mad George (Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master, Society), Howard Berger & Gregory Nicotero (The Walking Dead), Jim Davidson (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), Wayne Beauchamp (Phantasm 2), Michael Deak (House of a Thousand Corpses, Masters of Horror), and many more all contribute their efforts. From stop-motion oddities to a fully functional reworked cardio-vascular system, there’s so much detail on screen that narrative issues can be ignored. Gore set-pieces have rarely looked so disgracefully creative.
Aside from effects and the delightful bromance, Richard Band’s soundtrack deserves note for helping carry some of the manic charm of the original over. Band’s particular brand of brass-led bonkers feels like Hitchcockian Bernard Herman dragged through the B-Movie. Solid sound-tracking does the film a lot of favours when Yuzna, and co-writers Rick Fry, and Woody Keith seem to have trouble repurposing the characters and nailing what the film is actually about. As with the film’s namesake Bride of Frankenstein, Bride of Re-Animator doesn’t pop-out its bride until the very last minute, but the reveal and climactic set-piece leave the film in suitably preposterous stead. A little thing called “tissue-rejection” deserves your attention because it literally threatens to dwarf every other effect in this film and the original.
Bride of Re-Animator was only Yuzna’s second directing credit after his body-horror debut Society, and though there’s definitely more going on here, Society remains Yuzna’s finest and most consistent hour. Bride of Re-Animator is still a lot of fun, boasting incredible practical effects work and the continued strength of Combs and Abbott’s anti-hero duo.
Dir. Brian Yuzna
Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Claude Earl Jones, Fabiana Udenio, Mel Stewart