Friday, July 6, 2018

BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1989) / BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003) (Umbrella Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc Collector Edition 
Beyond Genres: Worlds on Films Vol. 2 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment 
Region: Region B
Rating: MA
Duration: 97 Minutes (Bride)/ 96 Minutes (Beyond) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo (Bride), English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 (Beyond) with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) (Bride), 1080p HD Widescreen (1.77:1) (Beyond) 
Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Jeffrey Cobs, Bruce Abbot, Claude Earl Jones, David Gale, Fabiana Udenio, Mel Stewart (Bride) / Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Elsa Pataky, Santiago Segura, Simon Andreau (Beyond)

The events of Brian Yuzna's lunatic sequel to Re-animator begin eight months after the events of the first movie with both Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond) and Dr. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott, Bad Dreams) working as medics in Peru where a bloody civil war is raging around them. The steady stream fresh corpses proves ideal for West and his continued experiments in reviving the dead with his green-glowing re-agent serum. When the medical camp is overrun by enemy soldiers the duo are forced to abandon their South American endeavor and return to Arkham, Massachusetts where they resume their former careers as doctors at Miskatonic University Hospital, where Dan seems content in making terminal patients comfortable during their finals days, while West just sort of wrings his hands with delight waiting for them to pass, at which point he can use their fresh corpses as test subjects for his coveted re-agent serum.   

Both Dan and Herbert West live together in a house on the property of the local cemetery which seems appropriate, though the two once again make for combative housemates, not exactly seeing eye to eye on all things. West is conveniently able to pilfer body parts from the Miskatonic University morgue, which is where he finds Dr. Hill's severed head and Meg's heart among other medical artifacts saved from the Miskatonic Massacre, Meg being Dan's former love interest from the first movie. West steals the heart and uses it to coerce Dan into helping him create a body from human parts, which when finished they will give life to by using the re-agent serum. This experimentation takes place in the basement of the home, a space that shares a wall with a cemetery crypt next door, which is where West conveniently disposes of his failed creations, which will come back to haunt him during the final moments of the movie.

Meanwhile, back at Miskatonic University the aptly named Dr. Graves (Mel Stuart, Dead Heat) has himself become obsessed with the work of the late Dr. Hill (David Gale, Ritual), and while using some of the re-agent serum found at the crime scene from the first movie is able to re-animate Hill's head, who then sets about exacting revenge on West, beginning by using his diabolical hypnotic powers to force Grave to sew a pair of bat wings to the sides of his severed head, which enables him to fly around! This has always brought to mind the winged skull mascot of the thrash band Overkill, and if the notion of a bat-winged severed head flying around seems a bit on the silly side that is because it certainly is, and it doesn't look much better than it might sound either. While the first movie was darkly comedic this one amps the comedy up quite a bit and goes right off the deep end of demented.

Also figuring into the story is police officer Lt. Leslie Chapham (Claude Earl Jones, Evilspeak) who harasses both Dan and Herbert whom he holds responsible for the re-animation of his dead wife nine months earlier. As Dan and West were the only survivors of the Miskatonic Massacre he knows that deep down they had something to do with it. His quest for deranged justice results in him becoming one of Dr. Hill's re-animated minions, joining the ranks of the formerly undead. This time around Dan has a new love interest, another doctor named Francesca Danelli played by Fabiana Udenio (Alotta Fagina from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)), her inclusion seems a bit jammed-in here but it's not ruinous.

The movie comes to a head with the completion of their Bride, a corpse stitched together from various cadavers, with the heart of Dan's beloved Meg within it, they inject it with re-agent and the re-animated bride arises, just as the winged head of Dr. Hill and his re-animated minions lay siege to the house, leading up to a fevered finale with a cat fight between the Bride and Francesca, but when Dan rejects the affections of the creature she rips out her own heart and begins to fall apart quite literally. There's some very cool Screaming Mad George created freaky looking creatures that have been kept hidden away in the crypt which come after West he and the others take refuge from Dr. Hill's mind-controlled minions in the crypt, which brings this weird and gory sequel to a proper close. This sequel solid, maybe a bit on the absurd side, with more comedic and slapstick moments than the Stuart Gordon original, but a worthy and gory entry with a nicely deranged performance from Jeffrey Combs as the beloved Dr. Herbert West, a sweet slice of '80s gore cinema loaded with humor and nicely shot. 

Audio/Video: Bride of Re-animator (1989) arrives on region B locked Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment, containing both the R-rated and unrated versions - and looking to be from the same existing source as used by Arrow Video for their Region A release, framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. The image has a healthy looking grain field with good color saturation and nice looking blacks. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 audio, a well-balanced track with good separation, with Richard Band's score coming through with some nice depth and fidelity, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Extras fro Bride begin with three audio commentaries for the unrated cut of the film, the first with director Brian Yuzna moderated by David Gregory of Severin Films, the director right from the start reveals the influence of schlock-master William Castle on the movie with the floating head of Dr. Hill. I have not listened to the commentary with Yuzna, Combs and the special effects team yet, but the commentary with Combs and Abbott is a great listen, the two have a great chemistry onscreen and on the commentary, coming across as humorous, the two are always questioning the why and how of the absurd sequel.  

The disc also has two Severin Films produced featurettes, beginning with the 10-minute 'Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-animator' with the director remembering the origins of the sequel, unused story idea,making Society before getting to the sequel, the hurried start to the movie and selling the movie to Troma for distribution under the banner of 52nd Street Films, in addition to the critical and fan reception to the movie. 

The 15-minute 'Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-animator' features interviews with the many talented special effects creators who worked on the movie including Robert Kurtzman of KNB, Screaming Mad George, Tony Doublin, John Buechler and Brian Yuzna, these are great, I always love hearing about the creation of these '80s practical effects, it begins with Yuzna recalling the work on Stuart Gordon's Dolls, and is peppered with loads of behind-the-scenes footage.  

Other extras on the set included an archival making of featurette offering some great behind-he-scenes footage of the movie being made along with the set-up of the great gore gags, eight minutes of deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, and a 12-minute radio play of the H.P Lovecraft source material. 

Bride of Re-Animator Special Features:
- Audio commentary with Brian Yuzna (Unrated Cut) 
- Audio Commentary with Brian Yuzna, star Jeffrey Combs, visual effects supervisor Tom (Unrated Cut) 
Rainone and the effects team including John Buechler, Mike Deak, Bob Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Screaming Mad George
- Audio Commentary with stars Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott (Unrated Cut) 
- Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-animator – brand new featurette in which the director looks back at the making of the first Re-animator sequel (10 Mins) HD
- Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-animator – Brand new FX featurette with a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Robert Kurtzman of KNB, Screaming Mad George, Tony Doublin and John Buechler (15 Mins) HD
- Getting Ahead in Horror – archive making-of featurette (24 Mins) HD
- Deleted Scenes (10 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- Behind the Scenes: Special Effects Artists (15 Mins)  
- Dark Adventure Radio Presents: Herbert West: Re-Animator (12 min) 

Beyond Re-Animator opens up with a wonderful pre-credit sequence with a pair of kids having a sleepover in their backyard telling scary stories to each other in a tent, they go back inside the house to give one of the boy's sister a hard time when 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 it's tongue hanging out. 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. 

Thirteen years later we catch-up with West 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 near mindless zombie-types usually associated with the serum. As he's in prison his experiments have been rudimentary and relegated to the rat population, and he has no re-agent serum to further test his theories further, but all that's about to change. 

A new prison doctor arrives and requests that Dr. West be assigned to the sick ward as his assistant, it turns out that the new doc Howard Phillips (Jason Barry, Titanic) was the kid whose sister was murdered by one of West's creations thirteen year's earlier, He's been obsessed with the Dr.'s work ever since and the two begin almost immediately working on a new batch of re-agent, while also trying out that syringe of re-agent the kids kept all those years ago, it's degraded some but the results are as problematic as you might expect. 

This movie is a bit of a departure from the previous entries, gone is Bruce Abbott as Dan Cain, West's former partner turning state's evidence against him, and it's set in a prison so it has a different feel about it, also being shot in Spain but set in America. The tone 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 gorgeous local reporter named Laura (Elsa Pataky, Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt) who arrives at the prison to do a story about the prison and it's sadistic Warden Brando (Simón Andreu, The Blood Spattered Bride), who turns his eye onto Laura, which ends with her violent death when she refuses his come-ons. 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.

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, 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, mostly relegated top small touches, but it looks like all the gore is practical, so that's cool. 

The movie is third in the series and is last in terms of quality for the franchise, the story is an interesting examination of the evolution of the re-animation process and there's some keen practical effects but the acting is a bit uneven and the tone is inconsistent, but I will say this gets better with each consecutive watch. 

Audio/Video: Beyond Re-Animator (2003) makes it's worldwide HD debut from Umbrella Entertainment on a region B locked Blu-ray in 1080p HD framed in 1.77:1 widescreen. The image on this one is problematic in that it's been heavily DNR'd, looking overly smooth with the fine detail being lost, with facial detail appearing slightly waxy. Colors look decent but there's an overall softness and lack of depth combined with the grainless image that just makes for a lackluster HD presentation. 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 heavily references Richard Band's scores for the first two films and gets some nice depth to it, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we get that have appeared on previous home video versions from Lionsgate in the U.S. and Arrow Video in the U.K., these include an insightful commentary from director Brian Yuzna, an 18-minute making of featurette with interviews from the cast and Yuzna, plus 18-minutes of interviews from Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Elsa Pataky, Santiago Segura, Simon Andreau, a lot of which was incorporated into the making of featurette. There's also a music video, 18-minutes of behind-the-scenes footage and a trailer for the film. 

This is the second release from Umbrella's Beyond Genres: World's On Film imprint following the wonderful release of Re-Animator, the 2-disc release comes housed in an over-sized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork with four panels of artwork, though there's no text/logo on any of the artwork options, but the spine is logo-ed, and it comes with a handsome slipcase which which like the branded with the Beyond Genres design, the spine is numbered, this being volume 2. The discs themselves features excerpts of the artwork from the four-panel sleeve.    

Beyond Re-Animator Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Director Brian Yuzna 
- The Making of Beyond Re-Animator  (18 min) 
- Dr. Re-Animator: Move Your Dead Bones (4 min) 
- Interviews with Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Elsa Pataky, Santiago Segura, Simon Andreau (18 min) 
- Behind The Scenes (12 min) 
- Trailer (2 min)

Umbrella's Blu-ray release of Bride of Re-Animator/Beyond Re-Animator is a fun double-feature, Bride looks fantastic in HD, while Beyond is marred by a dated HD master and some excessive DNR, but it's great to have both on Blu-ray in HD with loads of extras. I do wish that the Beyond had been afforded a new restoration for it's  worldwide HD debut, but I give kudos to Umbrella for the presentation of Bride and the sweet-looking packaging on this one. Both of these sequels sequels continue to age with a gory grace I wouldn't have guessed when I first watched them years ago, more so for Bride, but Beyond is still growing on me. 

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