Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Bride of Re-Animator
This morbid doodling with human body parts… is this what it’s all about? Is this what all our great work has led to?
Jarv’s Rating: 3 Changs out of 4. This is how you fucking do it: completely loopy, rock-solid slice of deep-fried gold that mashes classical horror references in with some of the most gleefully demented insanity in any horror sequel.
Let’s be absolutely crystal clear from the word go: Bride of Re-Animator has about as much to do with H.P. Lovecraft as Silvio Berlusconi has to do with chastity and honesty. There was plenty of room at the end of the original classic Re-Animator to totally justify a sequel, and in 1990 Brian Yuzna took up the reins and returned with the full surviving cast (and a few undead ones) to Stuart Gordon’s finest hour. Except this time, the decision was made to go for a full-blown comedy. Actually, the film this most reminds me of is Frankenhooker, it’s got the same gleeful sense of stupidity as that film and it could quite easily have been made by Henenlotter- it’s got his sensibilities running right through it. Bride of Re-Animator is, simply put, an absolutely stupendous piece of schlock, a gore filled gigglefest that even the most po-faced gorehound could find some enjoyment in. Oh, and it features notorious decapitated undead cunt Dr. Hill- except this time it features Dr. Hill 2.0: with added cuntishness and bat wings.
Picking up after the events of the first film, West and Cain (Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbot thankfully reprising their roles) have clearly not learned a damned thing from the first film. Instead, they’re working as medics in some war-torn shithole in central America. I presume Cain is doing this to help people, but West is simply after the freshest possible cadavers that he can get his paws on. The call comes and they’re being allowed to return to their old workplace (just in time, actually, as it’s all gone a bit tits up for them on the burrito front). In the meantime, Dr Hill’s head has been discovered and returned to the hospital where the police are struggling to make sense of what happens. West and Cain move into an old house conveniently situated next to a graveyard and no sooner than you can say “Burke and Hare” West is up to his old tricks pillaging body parts and whatnot for testing the serum. Cain, in the meantime, gets it on with an Italian reporter (Fabiana Udenio) who’s only in the film to get her tits out. The police, and particularly Lt Chapman (Claude Earl Jones) are sniffing around trying to make sense of events (good luck there), and Hill’s head is tormenting Mel Stewart’s Dr. Graves. Cain hasn’t really got over whatshername’s death in the first film so when West discovers her heart, they make the catastrophic decision to rebuild her from purloined body parts. Sanity goes out of the window, Hill Fedexes his own head to West and it all goes completely tits up. The Bride is reanimated to truly disastrous effect, West’s previous experiments break loose, Hill flaps around cackling maniacally, the zombie horde attack the house, Cain and Francesca Danelli escape. The end.
This film is, as that plot synopsis above may give away, completely and utterly nuts. West isn’t just a mad scientist, no, not any more. He’s now travelled so far away from sanity that he can’t see it with a telescope. For amusement (well, dank cellars get boring for your average crazy genius) he sutures random body parts together and then injects them with the magic green syringe. Cain is, understandably, not overly chuffed at finding this out and his exclamation regarding “morbid doodling” is just one highpoint of a script full of gems. West, despite multiple catastrophic failures, has also developed a ludicrous sense of arrogance and megalomania, and his rant to Cain once the Bride is bought back is an absolute gem of mad scientist writing:
Blasphemy? Before what? God? A God repulsed by the miserable humanity He created in His own image? I will not be shackled by the failures of your God. The only blasphemy is to wallow in insignificance. I have taken refuse of your God’s failures and I have triumphed. There! THERE is my creation!
Although once again West gets the majority of the cracking speeches, let’s not forget about Dr. Hill- he’s absolutely hilarious in this film, spitting crazy lines like “West you stupid biped” at the other characters. The fact that he’s a disembodied head flapping around on bat wings doesn’t seem to bother him, if anything, he seems to be quite chuffed by this turn of events.
This film works so well because it’s designed as a comedy. Take, for example, the scene with the eye-hand-spider thing. West and Cain are in a bit of shit here attempting to fend off Chapman’s reasonable enquiries about missing body parts and some such, unfortunately, they’re both completely distracted by the hand scurrying around the place. This is flat-out hilarious, and one of many examples of supremely comic scenes in the film. Even the finale itself, which is so bugnuts that it nearly defies description, is a plethora of comedy and superb sight gags. This really is a very funny film.
The entire cast of Bride of Re-Animator are on top form. Abbot again has the hardest job, playing straight man to West’s increasing lunacy and Hill’s frantic scenery chewing, but he does it with a sense of weary stoicism that does him well. If he seems distracted in the last third, that’s entirely the fault of the script as he’s no sooner formed the beast with two backs with unconvincing Italian journalist when he’s been press-ganged into helping West play god. The script asks Abbot to play lovesick puppy with the decomposing corpse of the bride, but he’s got a new live playmate not made of other people’s left overs. It’s no wonder he looks a tad confused and seems spaced out. On the other hand, Coombs and Gale are having an absolute blast here. Coombs in particular has turned his performance of West up to 11- it’s no longer creepy, being instead just completely demented. Gale, clearly, loves playing disembodied undead cunt Dr. Hill, and spends the whole film with a massive grin on his face. A lunatic at full moon grin, admittedly, but it’s obvious that he’s having a ball.
The special effects in this film are also first-rate. they’re all practical, and some, such as the spider-finger-eye thing are brilliant. The gore effects as well, and there are buckets of gore thrown around here, are top-notch. The bride herself is a fabulously gruesome creation, she’s clearly not (despite what West thinks) well designed. In fact, she looks like she’s on the verge of falling to pieces at any time and when she does eventually offer her heart to Cain, the effect is fabulously gruesome and supremely well done. Actually, the Bride herself, is an astonishingly difficult role to play, so credit where it’s due to Kathleen Kinmont for a sterling job in a semi-inarticulate part.
Bride of Re-Animator is a mish-mash of influences, but most obviously, it’s another stab at Frankenstein. Despite the relatively overplayed source material, however, the marriage of Bride of Frankenstein to the first Re-Animator film works absolutely wonderfully. Partially this is down to the actors on board, and partially down to the script, but mostly because it’s directed with such a sense of fun. Bride of Re-Animator is a hugely enjoyable romp, a crazy blast and a joyously messy affair that moves at real speed. That it runs away with him slightly in the last third is probably more to do with the demands the script makes, particularly on poor old Abbot. The last third is a fantastic mess and although it is hugely enjoyable there’s no denying the feeling that they’ve just thrown everything at the screen to see what works.
Overall, Bride of Re-Animator is a sterling sequel. It’s gallons of giggles, and a gleeful, gore soaked slice of schlock. Frequently, hilarious, with magnificent practical effects and a rampant sense of the absurd, there’s very little that could have been done to improve it. If I had to make a suggestion, then the obvious would have been to excise Francesca from the script as it’s her addition that pushes the confusion to far. Nevertheless, this is simply hugely enjoyable, and stands comfortably by itself as a film in its own right. I actually thoroughly recommend a Re-Animator double bill (I’m still yet to see Beyond) as a top draw night in. Recommended.
Until next time,