*/**** Image B Sound B Extras B
starring Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Elsa Pataky, Enrique Arce
screenplay by Jose Manuel Gomez
directed by Brian Yuzna
by Walter Chaw Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) apparently exists now in an alternate comic book universe where, as the hero, he can have innumerable concurrent adventures that disregard developments in other instalments in the series. Interred in a maximum security dungeon in the H.P. Lovecraft multiverse (a multiverse still dabbled in recently by Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon and his underestimated Dagon), West has jettisoned schlub assistant Dan for schlub prison doctor Howard (Jason Barry) while doomed love interest duties are assumed by the comely Elsa Pataky as a spunky investigative reporter. During imprisonment, West continues his experiments in re-animating the dead, expanding his research to encompass the idea that the soul has weight (making this an unlikely companion piece to Alejandro González Iñárritu's 21 Grams) and can be captured and replaced--echoes, of course, of "Dr. Frankenstein"'s experiments at humanizing Bub in Day of the Dead.
The similarities between George Romero's second sequel and Yuzna's second sequel extend to a gratifying affection for old-school gore effects, the saving of the bulk of those effects for the last fifteen minutes, and a subplot involving the peril of essentially the only woman in a male-dominated, segregated society. Alas, where Day of the Dead is a wealth of subtext and social commentary, Beyond Re-Animator proves mainly to be a low-budget, cheap-o splatter flick injured by its slick look and a supporting cast drawn mainly from the Spanish film industry that financed the endeavour. On the bright side, Yuzna brings back special effects maestro Screaming Mad George to provide the grue: not so innovative this time around, it's wet just the same.
The wisdom of nurses with plunging necklines and bombshell reporters in tight miniskirts wandering around in a maximum security prison something probably best left unquestioned (and more than likely cause enough for the gory mayhem of the film's conclusion), nothing really ultimately distracts from the fact that the supporting cast members sport heavy Spanish accents and no one seems capable of pretending to be dead without swallowing or moving their eyes around-- problems addressable with time and the budget for greater coverage (and perhaps a better director). Beyond Re-Animator is a disappointment in every respect, save legendary B-movie actor Combs's dry reprisal of the West role. Combs is so good, in fact, that for as long as he's involved in the franchise, no matter how many boom microphones drop into the frame, no matter how misogynistic the film tends to be, there is a franchise.
Lions Gate presents Beyond Re-Animator on DVD as one of its first titles post-buyout of the long-moribund Artisan Entertainment, and immediately demonstrates a better knowledge of how to release niche titles for a discriminating fanboy audience. The 1.78:1 anamorphic video transfer preserves Yuzna's propensity to over-light his horror films (see also: The Dentist), resulting in something that looks sterile and unthreatening when the opposite would be ideal. Edge enhancement, as a result, is not really much of an issue as the picture is already eye-splittingly sharp. Dark levels betray what looks like a coffee-mote storm, demonstrating that for as clear as the light-saturated scenes are, the shadow detail is surprisingly dicey. A DD 5.1 audio mix is unimaginative and underutilized.
Yuzna drops in for a feature-length commentary to make the startling revelations that the picture's stupid slasher movie opening was a contrived attempt to lure an unsophisticated horror movie audience, and that the picture was intended to continue right where Bride of Re-Animator left off. Could've fooled me. And did. Generally informative if not overly enthusiastic, the yakker is probably not worth the time for a non-fanatic. An unintentionally hilarious music video of some ode to Herbert West and a "making of" featurette that features interviews with a stoned-seeming Yuzna and Pataky speaking, unsubtitled, in her native Spanish round out--save the requisite trailers (for this film, Cabin Fever, Faust), accessible as an Easter Egg (highlight the studio icon on the main menu)--the fine presentation. Originally published: January 22, 2004.