Saturday, April 23, 2016

BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1989) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)


Label: Arrow Video 
Region: Free
Rating: 18
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: PCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Jeffrey Cobs, Bruce Abbot, Claude Earl Jones, David Gale, Fabiana Udenio, Mel Stewart

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) 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 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 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) 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. 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) 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, who was a face I knew, but it took me awhile to place her as Alotta Fagina from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), her inclusion seems a bit jammed-in there 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 over-the-top performance from Jeffrey Combs as the beloved Dr. Herbert West, a sweet slice of '80s gore cinema loaded with humor. 

Audio/Video: Bride of Re-animator arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video in both the R-rated and unrated versions - both running at 97 minutes in length. Both versions are new 2K scans with the unrated coming from a 35mm 
Composite Master Positive Print and the R-rated version coming from a second generation intermediate interpositive. I would definitely give the unrated version the edge over the R-rated version with a nicely managed grain field and more saturated colors. There's a nice sharpness to the image but it is marred by some strange and over powering set-lighting and the inclusion of cuts scenes which aren't up the same standards, but overall this is a very pleasing presentation on Blu-ray from Arrow Video that easily advances the previous DVD versions. The PCM Stereo 2.0 audio on the set sounds awesome, with Richard Band's almost criminal Bernard Hermann-esque score coming through with some real power, both dialogue and sound effects are nicely balanced and clean sounding. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Arrow Video have above and beyond for the fans of the movie, first offering new 2K restorations of both the R-rated and unrated versions of the movie, plus the inclusion of three audio commentaries, including a brand new one 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 brand-new 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 behind-the-scenes reel

Special Features:
- Brand new 2K restoration of the R-rated version (97 Mins) HD
- Brand new 2K restoration of the Unrated version (97 Mins) HD
- Brand new audio commentary with Brian Yuzna
- Audio Commentary with Brian Yuzna, star Jeffrey Combs, visual effects supervisor Tom
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
- 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 Reel (15 Mins)  

- Original Stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Limited Edition Collector’s Booklet

This release from Arrow Video is stacked from top to bottom, it really goes above and beyond for this gore-soaked sequel, offering new 2K restorations of both the R-rated and unrated versions of the movie with the usual sweet Arrow Video design and packaging. As a sequel the Bride of Re-Animator is fun, gory and wonderfully nutty, a step down from the original but a totally fun watch, and this is the definitive version to own.