**½/**** Image C Sound C
starring Bruce Abbott, Claude Larl Jones, Fabiana Odento, David Gale
screenplay by Woody Keith and Rick Fry
directed by Brian Yuzna
by Walter Chaw Screaming Mad George is a genius. Make-up artist extraordinaire, his legacy is born of Stan Winston and Tom Savini, but his touch is more witty than the former and more perverse than the latter, resulting in a body of work that, by itself, makes the third Children of the Corn film a winner, the climax of Brian Yuzna's Society unspeakably sticky, and this, Yuzna's sequel to Stuart Gordon's classic splatter flick Re-Animator, a gore flick of unusual visual wit and energy. A continuation of the sad events at H.P. Lovecraft's doomed Miskatonic University, the tale of mad Herbert West (B-movie legend Jeffrey Combs) and his experiments in reanimating living tissue (undaunted, apparently, by his run-in with an over-eager intestinal tract in the first film) with hapless assistant Dan (Bruce Abbott), Bride of Re-Animator captures a lot of the gleeful lack of boundaries of the first film without, predictably, the attendant surprise and freshness. Still, what emerges is a genre picture that, for all of its lack of psychosexual subtext and subtlety, gains for its jubilant indulgence in the wetworks.
Still stinging from the death of girlfriend Meg (Barbara Crampton in the first film, Mary Sheldon here), Dan returns from a quick trip to a South American civil war zone to continue his apprenticeship under bizarre, brilliant Dr. West. Expanding their experiments from reanimation to regeneration, the premise gives Screaming Mad George the opportunity to craft creatures composed of head and batwing, arm and foot, and fingers and eyeball--a freak tent sideshow to the loose narrative about Dan finding new love in the arms of busty Francesca (Fabiana Udenio) before attempting to fashion the titular patchwork girlfriend. The implications of West's, "Make a note of it Dan, tissue rejection!" aren't left to the imagination. Bride of Re-Animator is among the most gleefully disgusting films of all time, a splatterfest leavened by liberal doses of macabre good humour ("My god, they're using tools!") that, in sort of an odd way, speaks to the inappropriateness of the whole enterprise. Moments of mordant hilarity aside, what works in the picture works extremely well (namely the old-school special effects, and Combs), and if Bride of Re-Animator lacks the intimate cohesion of the first film despite its desire to resurrect a feeling of doomed love, it at least isn't coy about ladling out the goodies.
The same, sadly, can't be said for Artisan's slack DVD. There are no special features, no nothing--a pair of audio commentaries and making-of featurettes for the film are readily available, having been included in a previous DVD edition from Pioneer whose rights are co-owned by Artisan, but they were for whatever reason jettisoned for this reissue, as was the rare unrated version of the film. The video is full-frame 1.33:1, the negative aspect ratio, but still not the dimensions in which it was screened theatrically. As I doubt that the picture was shot on thirty-year-old film stock still grimy from handling, there's even less to forgive the dubious picture quality, plentiful grain, and blanched colours. The 2.0 Dolby Surround track reproduces dialogue well but, meh, whatever, seek out the old release. I don't know what the deal is with Artisan nowadays, but unless Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights can somehow pull it out of its stagnancy, maybe a little euthanasia is in order. Originally published: October 30, 2003.