The golden rule of any horror sequel? Go bigger. More shocks, more scares, more gore, more everything. In making a sequel to one of the most loved horror movies of the 1980’s, that formula better be followed. Thankfully, that is just the approach that director Brian Yuzna took with Bride of Re-animator, the sequel to the 1985 Stuart Gordon classic, Re-animator.
Before we Start, a History Lesson: What is Re-animator?
The original Re-animator was a loose adaptation of an H.P Lovecraft short story called Herbert West-Reanimator. Gordon took the premise of Lovecraft’s story and crafted one of the most memorable horror movies of the 1980’s. The film saw the brilliant but unorthodox medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), assisted by his friend Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot), seek to perfect his research. West is the inventor of a reagent that can re-animate dead tissue. The serum works, at the cost of the re-animated subject being rendered thoroughly insane and prone to homicidal violence . Plagued by setbacks, not in the least his disembodied nemesis, Dr Hill (David Gale), West unleashes a trail of undead chaos in his quest for harnessing the key to immortality.
Here Comes The Bride
To say that anticipation was high for Bride of Re-animator would be an understatement. Horror fans LOVED Re-animator. They loved Jeffery Comb’s unhinged Herbert West and his dogged quest for recognition. They loved the gore, chaos, the joyful abandon of Stuart Gordon’s original. Bride of Re-animator certainly had a lot to live up to. The approach with Bride of Re-animator was very much in a similar spirit as the original. It’s a darkly satirical horror romp with lashings of gore, jaw dropping effects work and wonderfully tongue in cheek performances from the assembled cast. Tipping its hat to James Whales classic sequel, Bride of Frankenstein in its title, Bride of Re-animator wasn’t setting out to reinvent the wheel.
Bride of Re-animator acts as a skewed take on Bride of Frankenstein. The premise of the sequel was simple. After the massacre at Miskatonic University Hospital at the close of the previous film, West & Cain have fled the country, working as medics in a South American field hospital. Whilst there West continues his experiments with his reagent until forced to flee the country during a rebel uprising.
Returning to Massachusetts, Cain returns to his job at the university. Meanwhile, West sets up shop once again in Dan’s basement. West continues his research with body parts stolen from the university and the cemetery adjoining Dan’s home. West has discovered his reagent can revive body parts on their own setting in motion a new quest to assemble an entire living person from various parts. Convincing a broken and despondent Cain that he can create a new life using the heart of Cain’s deceased girlfriend Megan as it’s core, West once again has his willing patsy and a repository of spare parts to begin his work.
Gore Team Assemble! Enter Screaming Mad George
Bride of Re-animator certainly takes the ‘If it isn’t broken’ approach to its story. The film seeks to deliver the same thrills and chills dished out in Stuart Gordon’s original. This time, producer of the original, Brian Yuzna stepped forward to take directorial duties. Yuzna drafted in effects maestro Joji “Screaming Mad George” Tani to handle the practical effects work on Bride of Re-animator.
Enlisting the services of Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero of KNB, Tani’s team’s work is nothing less than memorable. We first have The Bride, she is quite literally West’s Frankenstein creation. A hodge-podge of body parts cobbled together, the effects make-up on The Bride was truly impressive. Particularly memorable being her horrifying breakdown at the film’s climax. We’re treated to various horrific amalgamations as the film progresses. There are creatures cobbled together from various body parts creating a hellish aura to Bride of Re-animator. Imagine a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life and you’d be close to the work that Tani and his team accomplished for this film. The films chaotic climax really is a thing to behold for any fan of horror.
The Wonderful Mr. Combs
Jeffery Combs without doubt steals this film. He chews scenery with gusto for its duration. West is a man driven by a singular goal, not preoccupied with the niceties of morality or decency. He is just as much of a monster as his creations, it’s a part that owes everything to Combs portrayal. Not to discount from the performances of the ensemble cast. Everyone performs admirably in this film, Combs however just plain steals it. He inhabits Herbert West in such a way that it is thoroughly impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. If that isn’t the sign of an iconic performance, I don’t know what is.
House of Re-animator
One of the most infamous aborted ideas for a Re-animator sequel deserves a mention here. A prospective story saw Cain enlisted by the government to bring the recently deceased President of The United States back to life with the help of fellow partner in crime Herbert West. The title of this film was to be House of Re-animator. Bride of Re-animator eventually replaced this idea. Though, this was an idea that for a time, refused to die. The project almost came to fruition in the early 00’s with William H Macy set to take the role of the resurrected president. Unfortunately it was not to be. The series continued in 2003 with Beyond Re-animator.
The Perfect Sequel?
Is Bride of Re-animator the perfect sequel? By no stretch of the imagination. It is however, a bold, chaotic, thoroughly anarchic and inventive continuation of the franchise. Bride of Re-animator was a film that set new benchmarks in physical effects work. It was a real treasure trove of insane invention. Once seen, Bride of Re-Animator is pretty damn hard to forget, in the best possible way.
What do you think of Bride of Re-animator? Does it live up to the original for you? Let us know your thoughts via our social media links at the bottom of the page!