Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Beyond Re-Animator
That 3 Years I spent in solitary…. I did some of my very best work!
Jarv’s Rating: Two and a Half Changs out of Four. While the law of diminishing returns is definitely kicking in with the Re-Animator series, there’s still much more to like here than dislike.
I’m feeling both extremely pleased and extremely cross with myself. Pleased because as of this morning I have now completed the Re-Animator series and am approaching completion in both 100% Stuart Gordon (and brilliantly now also 100% Brian Yuzna), which is, let’s face it, a billion times better than the 100% PWS Anderson that I accidentally managed last month. However, I’m cross with myself because this is easily the best non-Evil Dead horror trilogy that I’ve seen and I should have epic reviewed it in Frank and Droid style. Moreover, I’m actually cross with the world in general, because there isn’t a Re-Animator Box Set available. Why the fuck not? I really want to buy it, and I think it would sit proudly on my shelf with the Pot of Gore, Attack Pack and Evil Dead collections.
We all know the score here by now surely? This is a Re-Animator film, so expect the following things to feature heavily: Magic Green Syringes of undefined Re-Agent; Jeffrey Combs as Herb West; a gullible ingenue sidekick; boob; spectacular gore and monster effects; comedy; and shenanigans. I’m pleased to report that all the expected features are present and correct here, but I’m not sure the balance is right, and for some inexplicable reason the boob is toned down.
It doesn’t open promisingly, if I’m honest. There are two kids camping outside telling ghost stories. They venture indoors just in time to see Howard’s elder sister throttled by an angry zombie with a severely dislocated jaw. Fast forward 15 years or so and newly qualified Doctor Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) is taking up his post as a prison doctor. It comes as no shock at all to discover that this is the prison that houses Mad Doctor Herbert West, who has been incarcerated after Dan Cain turned states evidence against him. For most people, a bit of time in the joint would slow down their research, but not Herb- he’s experimenting on rats. He’s isolated some “new” energy inside cadavers that he believes is the missing link in his research- some neuro-plasma energy that’s stored in the nerve synapses. He believes that inserting this into the cadaver immediately after the application of the re-agent will cause the dead to not only re-animate but behave like they did in life.
In the meantime, Howard is porking local investigative journalist Laura (Elsa Pataky), who starts poking around in the prison to find out what happened to Moses (Nico Baixas), West is being menaced by Enrique Arce’s Cabrera (a sociopath with a worrying rat fixation) and the dastardly warden (Simón Andreu) is sniffing around Howard and West to see what they’re up to. Unsurprisingly, he’s not chuffed to find out what they’re up to, Moses bites the Warden and tries to murder Laura who is then throttled in a fit of rage. Howard and West bring her back with the new technique (it obviously doesn’t work as planned- which West sniffily dismisses with “Well, it was only a theory”), Moses causes a riot and the whole prison comes to resemble Bedlam the day before spring cleaning. The Climax of this film sees a crazed warden reanimating corpses left right and centre, before Laura bites his cock off and then a rat fights said severed unit. Laura strips down to bondage gear to beat up Howard who has to behead her, and West fries the warden in his own electric chair. The film closes with West escaping from prison.
To be honest, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this one. We all know that horror series decline in quality exponentially by the number of sequels and distance between sequel and original. Beyond Re-Animator has roughly a 12 year gap on its predecessor, and so should clearly have sucked. Luckily, it doesn’t. In fact, if anything, it manages to maintain a level of entertainment at a quite unexpected level. It’s nowhere near as crazy as bride or flat-out cool as the original, but this is good fun indeed by the standards of the genre. There are basically 3 people to thank for this. The first is director Brian Yuzna. He’s had a hand in Re-Animator from the start, and this is the second one he’s helmed. As a result he knows beat-for-beat how to play this, and pulls it off with some aplomb. Most importantly, which late sequels invariably fuck up, this just feels like a Re-Animator film. Beyond Re-Animator has that Je ne sais quoi that is so important here, not to mention a whole lot of heart.
The second person to thank is Jeffrey Combs. Again, this is his third stab at Herb West, and this West is slightly different from previous incarnations being as he’s older, wiser and a bit more cautious. He’s not remotely chastened and Combs still brings that incredible arrogance to the fore, but he’s played with a twinkle and touches of great dry wit. Barry is crap in the Cain role- and really made me miss Abbot, but hell, this is the Herb West show anyway. Pataky is fun as Laura, has a willingness to get her boobs out (not quite as blasé about is as Crampton, but I don’t think I’ve seen a film with her in it where her top has stayed on) and Andreu is hilarious as the Warden, particularly once he’s been injected with Rat Plasma Energy.
The final person to thank is effects lunatic Screaming Mad George. Eyes pop out, stomachs explode, people walk around with no legs and half their guts hanging out, a rat fights a penis and so forth. This is some top-drawer practical splatter work and for that I really do salute you.
Nevertheless, this is quite heavily flawed as well. To begin with, the film badly misses undead cunt Dr. Hill. Furthermore, there’s nowhere near enough Herb West in it- and far too much Laura and Howard nonsense. Secondly, the last third is, again, a confused mess with the ending in particular leaving lots to be desired. Well, we want West to escape, fine, but the fight between Howard and Laura (despite a spider walk) isn’t that much fun. It could have done with more boob as well- although Moses does gratuitously shred the Nurses uniform.
Secondly, this was, I am amazed to discover, shot in Spain on a very limited budget. All in all, I’m astonished at how far they made the money go, but nevertheless there are scenes that feel a bit “cheap” as if a corner has been cut here or there. This is most notable with the sets- which are of varying quality. Well, and the actors, obviously.
Overall, this is a good film, but not as good as it’s predecessors. However, what it does do, is leave me absolutely gagging for a fourth- which is no mean achievement. I do recommend this, get some beer and a pizza and enjoy the antics of our favourite green syringe wielding mad scientist, because Beyond Re-Animator is a “proper” Re-Animator film and a perfectly acceptable one.
Now, Yuzna/ Gordon, give us Re-Animator 4: IN SPACE. Or at least get that fucking box-set sorted out.
Until next time,