Dr. Herbert West returns again and this time he is continuing his ghastly experiments on the populace of a prison.
Directors: Brian Yuzna
Producers: Brian Yuzna And Julio Fernandez
Writers: Jose Manuel Gomez
Features: Widescreen 16 x 9, Director Commentary, Making of Featurette, Music Video, 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound Or 2.0 Digital Sound, English And Spanish Subtitles.
Dr. Herbert West...Jeffrey Combs
Dr. Howard Phillips...Jason Barry
Warden Brando...Simon Andreu
Nurse Vanessa Bell...Raquel Gribler
It's been a long time since I've watched the 1985 horror movie "Re-Animator," but I remember it as one of the best movies of the genre ever made. If I made a top ten list of horror films it would definitely be on it. There was a sequel made about six years later called "Bride Of The Re-Animator," but I never saw it screened anywhere. I only became aware of its' existence by scanning the video racks in a store and then I thought it must have been bad because it went straight to video. Now thirteen years later, out pops the DVD of "Beyond Re-Animator" with one of the original actors, Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West, and I am offered the opportunity to review it, so how could I resist? After seeing this new film, I can say it is not as good as "Re-Animator," but it can still stand tall as a great tale of dark, grisly horror that can easily be competitive with any of the fine horror movies that came out in 2003. What makes this movie stand out is its' perversity though the original is still king. It is nice to know in this age of P/C politics that a movie can still be made that will offend people. For all intents and purposes this movie is only out on DVD though I think it had a theatrical opening, but never reached the more conservative States. This movie has been like meeting an old friend and finding out that he is just as you remember him. The years and political correctness haven't hurt the 'Re-Animator' series.
This movie starts out in 1990 as two young boys are in a tent in the backyard of a house at night. They hear strange noises. Inside the house one of the boys' sister is attacked by a zombie-like creature and killed. Police then burst in and shoot the monster to pieces. As the police are departing, the dead girl's brother, Howard, watches as a man wearing glasses is placed in a police car, handcuffed. The boy notices a luminous syringe on the ground and picks it up as the police car disappears. Thirteen years later a young doctor named Howard Phillips(Jason Barry) walks into Arkham State Penitentiary to accept the post of medical physician. Warden Brando(Simon Andreu) remarks to the new employee that he is surprised that someone that was in the top five percent of his class would take a job in a prison. The doctor asks if inmate Herbert West has been assigned to his department and when he finds he has it is now that one of the most horrifying partnerships in the macabre is formed.
This movie borrows from "Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell." In both movies a young medical scientist and an older scientist are united in prison in the medical facility. In the two movies the men are concerned with creating life, with the younger one finding out later that science cannot be placed above everything as the older scientist does. Both young men look up to their elders, but have to go a different direction as things get out of hand. While the 'Frankenstein' movie has traditional horror, "Beyond Re-Animator" is more from the wave of seventies slasher movies with a strange tongue in cheek attitude toward perversity. Women are not treated nicely in the 'Re-Animator' movies. The director, Brian Yuzna, says he restrained himself because of how far women as strong individuals have come in film in recent times. Yet, somehow the women still wind up trod upon. It is hard to break old habits. At least the female protaganist, Laura(Elsa Pataky) gets a measure of satisfaction before being inundated with the weird plot twists that take place in this movie.
This movie's greatest strength is Jeffrey Combs. He has now played Dr. Herbert West in three films. The role comes naturally to him as he 'is' Dr. Herbert West. In the director's commentary, Yuzna talks about how Combs would change his dialog from what was written because he knew the character best. Yuzna concurs with Comb's decisions. I found Comb's depiction of Dr Herbert West riveting. It all seemed so natural. He is the Rock of Gibraltar for this film. Jeffrey Combs dominates every scene he is in with a quiet intensity. Dr. Herbert West is indifferent to what is happening around him as he has his goals and allows nothing to fluster him. West is a man on a mission that has been derailed for thirteen long years and now nothing will stand in his way.
Helping this film further is the unknown cast of actors that has been assembled by Brian Yuzna. Most of the characters in this film are slightly to fully off center. The actors that portray them do an exceptional job. This film was shot in Spain and only Jeffrey Combs and Jason Barry are not Spanish. That is not much of a distraction due to the fine acting. Nico Balxas, who plays a bald, psychotic inmate named Moses is mesmerizing. Yuzna says he found him in Spain giving an eighty minute performance using only his hands dressed in costumes with no sound. Yuzna hired him for the inmate role though he had first envisioned an older actor in the part. Simon Andreu gives a larger than life outing as the sadistic Warden. This man is a scene stealer and dominates with outrageousness as Combs does with quietude. Probably because of their wide range of acting styles, they very rarely share a scene.
The only weakness in this film is it being shot in Spain due to economical reasons. Some actors appear Latin and their accents will seep through occasionally. Yuzna says he had to redub some actors voices. The police cars are noticeably smaller than the cars police use in the United States. The story was decided to be kept inside the prison because of filming difficulties like finding American looking locations. This does give the film a closed in feeling, but after all the story takes place in a prison.
Part of the DVD extras for "Beyond Re-Animator" is the director commentary. Brian Yuzna talks about deciding to have the character of Herbert West remain in prison all those years between the two films. This way there were no loose ends around. He badmouths the rat that was used because it would not follow directions even with his animal trainer on the set. Yuzna said he had to use a lot of edits, slow motion and still frames to get the 'rat action' he wanted. What was so bad about the rat's attitude is that Yuzna had decided in a perverted homage to Disney films to use the animal as a secondary character with his own story that went along at the same time as events in the movie. The opening graphic credits which are outstanding were done by a Dutch company that even provided unsolicited music on the DVD that was sent to Yuzna. Yuzna says that he was so impressed by the music and how it fit in with the original "Re-Animator" film theme music by Richard Band that he used it in "Beyond Re-Animator." Yuzna said that there was no costume shop in Spain with American costumes to rent so the cast's clothes were hand made. This commentary was very informative and interesting.
This DVD has a music video which features a reworking of the "Re-Animator" theme done in a technotronic fashion. It is quite good and called 'Move your Dead Bones.'
There is also a documentary featurette telling how the film was made. It is called "Making Of Re-Animator" and is almost entirely in Spanish. I had to click on the English subtitles to understand what was being said. When Brian Yuzna is seen separate from the documentary he speaks English but when he is mixed in with the Spanish crew he speaks Spanish to them and to the camera for the most part. Jeffrey Combs and Jason Barry are the only other actors to speak English. Actress Elsa Pataky speaks in Spanish about her experiences on the movie and says she enjoyed doing most of her own stunts. In the commentary Yuzna mentioned she was a black belt so she was athletic enough. She mentions she had to fly to LA to have a face plate done for the movie. Simon Andreu, the Warden, talks about the four and one half hours of make up he had to have applied every day and the hour it took to take it off. Enrique Arce who played an inmate named Cabrera who didn't like Herbert West whines, "There wasn't a single day I didn't get hurt." He then details his injuries. Raquel Gribler who played the nurse talks about her role of having her clothes torn off by Moses. Though the back of the DVD box said that there were trailers, I could not find any on the DVD. This DVD uses a bloody eye as the ikon pointer to get to the many features.
"Beyond Re-Animator" is a fantastic movie. This is a DVD to buy or rent for a fun evening of gore. Brian Yuzna points out in one scene in the commentary, "I think I'll lose my women viewers here," so you guys know this one's for you. Nudity? Why yes this DVD does contain nudity.