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Lions Gate presents
"My last partner turned state's evidence against me. I expect better things from you."
DVD ReviewBeyond Re-Animator eagerly marks the triumphant return of one of horror's most underrated characters, Dr. Herbert West. The last time we saw the character of Dr. West was in director Brian Yuzna's Bride of Re-Animator (1990), a hit-and-miss followup to the Stuart Gordon gore classic Re-Animator (1985). West, played with perfectly detached deadpan blandness by Jeffrey Combs, is the determined doctor, who through the first two films, and now this second sequel, spends an inordinate amount of time working to resurrect the dead with his glowing green injections of a special "re-agent", which does actually work, but of course has the expected tragic and violently uncontrollable side effects.
In Beyond Re-Animator, it is revealed that since the events of the last film, West has been in prison for thirteen years, since being captured by police after one of his experiments ran amok, which Yuzna offers up in a wonderful Scream/Halloween-inspired prologue. A young boy, who had first-hand involvement in the opening sequence, grows up to become freshly-scrubbed Dr. Howard Phillips (Jason Barry), and his fascination with West leads him to accept a job at the prison, strictly for the opportunity to work with the infamous doctor.
It isn't long before the two have elaborated upon West's continuing experiments in a secret prison lab, and that's where the fun starts; plus, Barry's Dr. Phillips is certainly a more willing and eager participant than Bruce Abbott's Dan Cain character (from the first two films) ever was. Under the suspicious eye of the sadistic prison warden (Simon Andreu) and an inquisitive reporter (Elsa Pataky), West and his protege work with "nano plasmic energy", a marked improvement over Bride of Re-Animator's secret ingredient of rare iguana amniotic fluids, and the so-called NPE is akin to oversized fuses containing what might just be considered a person's soul; the NPE is what West and Phillips hope will allow them to attain some degree of control over the resulting rampaging resurrected dead.
The first forty-five minutes or so are spent establishing the various characters and scenarios, and just when I thought Yuzna had forsaken the franchise's trademark black comedy and gore, things literally erupt into a demented second half that features what Re-Animator fans are actually hungry for, like a vengeful upper torso, severed limbs aplenty, a maniacal bald zombie, a sexy and murderous love interest, a re-animated rat, an exploding body or two, a sizzling corpse, and an absolutely demented final fight scene that is set against the backdrop of a prison riot. Yuzna really delivers the fun, high-impact gore here, and still keeps a wicked sense of humor afloat at the same time.
Yuzna certainly isn't reinventing anything here, but he does seem to be having an awfully good time doing what he's doing. Assembled under the umbrella of his Spain-based Fantastic Factory company, Yuzna has populated Beyond Re-Animator with a batch of Spanish talent, including angelic model Elsa Pataky, along with television stars Santiago Segura and Bárbara Elorrieta. But it is Combs, with that wonderfully blank head-tilted, furrowed-brow stare (even left delivering a few too many corny one-liners this time around) who is the one who owns Beyond Re-Animator.
Based on how much bloody fun this one was, I truly hope this isn't the last we have seen of Dr. West.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Lions Gate has issued Beyond Re-Animator in a decent looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The depth and richness of the colors is nicely done for such a low-budget film, and overall the transfer reveals fairly crisp image detail; black levels are tolerable, but not overly deep. A few minor compression issues, along with shimmer and ringing are evident in spots, and for a new film, the print had a significant amount of white specks.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is offered in a pair of English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround tracks. The 5.1 track has more pronounced imaging and soundstage depth, and little things like the discrete music cues during chapter 19 have more of a spatial kick than the 2.0 mix. Dialogue, however, gets a little buried on both tracks, with things often getting overpowered by rising score elements. Still, most of the time everything said is discernible, but during a couple of the louder sequences a few character voices tended to get pushed down.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cabin Fever, Faust: Love of the Damned
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Brian Yuzna
Also included is a typical, nicely done Making Of (17m:12s), which features optional English subtitles that you will need because nearly everyone interviewed (cast, crew, even occasionally Yuzna) speak Spanish. The content is good, as is the chance to see snippets of some behind-the-scenes footage, to say nothing of Elsa Pataky.
The best part of the supplements is a bizarrely comic music video (04m:25s) entitled Beyond Re-Animator; Move Your Bones. This is a real thing of quirky, nostalgic beauty, a campy throwback to 1980s synth-pop featuring a severely coifed singer dancing around amidst clips from the film, that wraps with an equally strange little dance number. I don't who the performer is (all of the credits are in Spanish), but this has been put in heavy rotation at my house, just for the shear weirdness of it all.
In addition to a couple of trailers, the disc is cut into 24 chapters, and includes subtitles in English and Spanish.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsBrian Yuzna's latest Re-Animator sequel exhibits the same kind of rollercoaster intensity of black comedy and over-the-top gore that made Stuart Gordon's original such a blast. The occasionally derivative plot points are secondary to the way Yuzna gleefully threads it all together, including a great bit of twisted humor that plays over the closing credits, between a rat and a severed penis.
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