Tuesday, July 17, 2018

BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003) (Vestron Blu-ray Review)


Label: Lionsgate/Vestron Video Collector's Series 
Region: Region-Free
Rating: R (but actually the unrated cut) 
Duration: 96 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Elsa Pataky, Santiago Segura, Simon Andreau 

After causing the Miskatonic University Massacre, Dr. Herbert West has been serving a prison sentence for the past 14 years. When Howard, a new young doctor, comes to work as the prison MD and requests Dr. West’s assistance, Dr. West discovers that Howard has something he left behind 14 years ago...

Beyond Re-Animator opens up with a wonderful pre-credit sequence of a pair of kids having an old fashioned  sleepover in their backyard, they're telling scary stories to each other in a tent and then take a break to go back inside the house to give one of the boy's sister a hard time.  Inside the trio are attacked by one of Herbert Wests re-animated corpses, apparently having wandered in from across the street, it's a stunning looking corpse that is missing it's lower jaw with its tongue hanging out in a sickening way. It kills the teen girl and then begins drinking milk straight from the carton before a cop shows up and blows it away. The traumatized kid watches as the cops arrest Dr. West (Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond) and put him in the back of a police cruiser, then finding a syringe full of the glowing green re-agent and the opening credits begin to roll, it's a start to the film.

Thirteen years later we catch-up with West now in prison, still working away on his unnatural quest to defy death, but in the time passed he's begun working on a new key component of the re-animation process, something he calls "Nano-Plasmic Energy", an energy that can be extracted from the brain and stored in a glass capsule/fuse that can then be transferred into the body of another re-animated corpse, which when used along with re-agent can theoretically restore the re-animated to a more natural state, and not one of the mindless psycho zombie-types usually associated with the serum. As he's in prison his experiments have been rudimentary and relegated to the rat population, up to this point he has had no re-agent serum to further test his theories, but all that's about to change with the arrival of a new prison doc. 

A new doctor arrived at the prison and he requests that Dr. West be assigned as his assistant, it turns out that new doc Howard Phillips (Jason Barry, Titanic) was the very same kid whose sister was murdered by one of West's creations thirteen years earlier. He's been obsessed with the Dr.'s work ever since and the two begin immediately working on a new batch of re-agent. The doc has also brought with him that syringe of re-agent he kept all those years ago, it's degraded some but the results are as problematic as you might expect, re-agent has never been without its share of unintended repercussions and it's no different this time. 

Tonally the movie is a bit of a departure from the previous entries, gone is Bruce Abbott as Dan Cain, West's former partner having turned state's evidence against him, and he's missed.  Also being set in a prison gives it a different feel and dynamic, as does  being shot in Spain but set in America. The tone and locations may be different, but Jeffrey Combs is still the quirky over-serious doc we've loved for years, and Howard Phillips makes for a good stand-in for the Dan Cain-type character for West. The new doc even has a tragic love-interest by way of an attractive local reporter named Laura (Elsa Pataky, Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt) who arrives at the prison to do a story about it's sadistic Warden Brando (Simón Andreu, The Blood Spattered Bride), who turns his pervy eyes onto Laura, which ends with her violent death after she refuses his come-ons and he learns of the unflattering true nature of her story. Of course this leads to Phillips ill-advisedly using the re-agent on his doomed lover, which only further damns everyone involved with the expected results when the prison breaks out into a riot, with the re-agent being spread around in liberal doses causing all sorts of freaky weirdness.

The special effects in this one are realized by Screamin’ Mad George (Society) and look very good, we get a handful of re-agent zombies, including a rat-like variant of the prison warden, a man cut in half, the jawless zombie from the beginning of the film, tit-munching and some digital effects that aren't too shabby for the time period, but the digital stuff is mostly relegated to small touches, but it looks like all the gore is practical, so that's good news, n the gore department this one is tops. 

Audio/Video: The unrated cut of Beyond Re-Animator (2003) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from the Lionsgate's Vestron Video Collector's Series in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen, it has a healthy veneer of film grain, and is easily superior to the recent region-B locked release from Umbrella Entertainment which had some DNR baked into the master they used, that release is reviewed HERE. The Vestron image is brighter and not de-grained, fine detail offering more of Herbert West's signature facial wrinkles and furrowed brow, skin tones look warmer and the image has better clarity and depth. Black levels are good looking, and while there's some minor noise evident throughout this is a very good looking presentation, easily the better of the two versions available on Blu-ray right now. Check out the screenshot comparison of the two releases below, while I prefer the Vestron release notice how blown out the whites are in the first comparison shot of the re-animated guy drinking milk compared to the Umbrella release, it looks a bit too hot, losing some detail, but that's really the only shot that looks iffy in the comparison, the increase in detail is rather noticeable in the close-ups.

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 that sounds very good, there are no issues with distortion or hiss, and the Xavier Capellas score which heavily references Richard Band's score for the first two films gets some nice depth. This is front heavy mix but the score and some directional audio get some play in the surrounds, everything sounds clean and well-balanced, optional English subtitles are provided.

Onto the extras we gets loads of new stuff beginning with an isolated score and audio interview with Composer Xavier Capellas moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. Director Brian Yuzna shows up for a new nineteen minute interview speaking about setting it in a prison, what it was like shooting in Spain with a Spanish crew who weren't aware of the previous films, trying to recapture the tone of the series with only himself and Jeffrey Combs returning from the previous film. He also discusses the idea of nano-plasmic energy and the special effects used in the film. 
Jeffrey Combs shows up for a new 20-minute interview, he discusses the series, speaking of the space in between the series, shooting in Spain with Brian Yuzna, and the hurdles they had to overcome like the sometimes thick Spanish accents, which were overcome with  editing and voice over. He also describes the script as having potential but being a bit clunky, a work in progress, but thinking the kernel at the heart of the story was strong.

S. T. Joshi, author of I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft, who also appears on Vestron Dagon Blu-ray release,  shows up for a 16-minute interview discussing H.P. Lovecraft, his early career, the writing of Herbert West: Re-Animator, and how the the films compare to the source material, saying that the first film is actually quite faithful, capturing the wild grisliness of the source, and stating the original film is his preference of the series. 

The disc is buttoned-up with the original Brian Yuzna audio commentary that appears on previous home video versions, a five-minute gallery of production artwork by illustrator Richard Raaphorst with score from the film. I  am not sure what movie he was sketching for but I want to see that surreal nightmare movie he thought he was sketching these for, some great imagery in there. We also get the original 17-min EPK with vintage interviews from Director Brian Yuzna, and the cast including Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Elsa Pataky, Santiago Segura, and Simon Andreau. There's also a 17-min still gallery, the theatrical trailer, the international trailer, and of course that awful Dr. Reanimator "Move Your Dead Bones” music video that seems to be on all the releases of the film, and spoiler alert, it hasn't got better with age. 

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, the wrap, slipcover and disc all feature the same key artwork, the slip is branded with the Vestron Collector's Series, and both the spine of the wrap and slipcover are numbered, this being number fifteen, and it looks great on the shelf with my handful of other Vestron titles. Notably, this release is branded with the R-rating, but it looks to be the unrated cut, which includes about eight seconds of additional gore by way of the junkie's guts bursting and some additional eye-trauma, and Laura's throat being slashed. 


Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Director Brian Yuzna
- NEW – Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Xavier Capellas
- NEW – “Beyond and Back” – An Interview with Director Brian Yuzna (19 min) 
- NEW – “Death Row Sideshow” – An Interview with Actor Jeffrey Combs  (20 min) 
- NEW – “Six Shots By Midnight” – An Interview with S. T. Joshi, author of I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft (16 min) 
-  NEW – Production Art Gallery by Illustrator Richard Raaphorst (5 min) 
- Still Gallery (17 min) 
- Vintage EPK Featurette (18 min) 
- “Dr. Reanimator – Move Your Dead Bones” Music Video (4 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) 
- International Trailer (2 min)

Beyond Re-Animator (2003) is third in the series and is last in terms of quality, while the story is an interesting examination of the evolution of the re-animation process and there's some keen practical effects the acting is uneven and the tone is inconsistent. Jeffrey Combs is still great as Herbert West, I just wish the movie around his performance was a bit better. but I will say that this one gets slightly better with each watch, but it's still a let-down compared to the previous entries. That being said this is easily the best looking version of the film on Blu-ray and the only one with new extras, making this the one to own when it comes down to it.

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