Release Date(s)1991 (April 11, 2016)
Studio(s)Wildstreet Pictures/50th Street Films (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
Bride of Re-Animator (also known as Re-Animator 2 in the U.K.) is the 1991 sequel to Stuart Gordon’s horror comedy classic Re-Animator, which was released in 1985 by Empire Pictures. Both films star Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott as both scientists and doctors who find a way to bring dead tissue back to life with a strange glowing substance, but the results are chaotic. The first film was well-received by critics, managed to do double its budget at the box office, and became an all-time favorite amongst horror fans. With that kind of reaction, a sequel was almost inevitable.
Director Brian Yuzna, who was fresh off of producing the original and directing his first film Society, came in to direct the follow-up. Although three of the lead actors agreed to come back for a sequel, Barbara Crampton was advised by her agent not to do the film. Instead, a scene was filmed with her character making an appearance by a different actress, although it was eventually not used and her character is only mentioned by name. Interestingly enough, Kathleen Kinmont was brought in to play the titular Bride role, and had actually worked with Crampton already in another film. And although the film is a sequel, it still sort of follows the original H.P. Lovecraft story.
Bride of Re-Animator is not an altogether flawless film, by any means. It has its share of problems, mainly due to the burden of the bar being set so high by the first film. From a character perspective, I find it hard to believe that Dr. Cain would continue to go along with Herbert West and do even more experiments after all of the craziness that ensued in the first film. He’s a bit of a blank character with no allegiance to anyone, except to Meg, whom he can’t seem to fully move on from. I also think that the story for the sequel isn’t very compelling. It feels like a continuation, but it doesn’t allow the characters to do anything much different than what they’ve already done. In this story, suddenly Herbert West wants to create a woman from various body parts, including those belonging to a patient of Cain’s. Cain sort of falls in love with his patient, yet he still pines for Meg. It’s a little convoluted in the final version of the movie.
That all said, there’s still plenty about Bride of Re-Animator to appreciate. It occasionally likes to pay homage to films of the past, most notably The Bride of Frankenstein. I also noticed a possible acknowledgement to the original House on Haunted Hill as well, with Dr. Hill’s floating head at the beginning, not unlike Vincent Price’s floating head. And despite a couple of the effects being a little subpar, most of them are pretty amazing. All of the gore and body parts featured on screen, as well as some of the monsters that West is hiding in the cemetery, are extremely weird and very well-done. And knowing that they were done by what is basically the 80’s horror effects all stars, including KNB, John Carl Buechler, and Screaming Mad George, makes them all the more special.
While Bride of Re-Animator didn’t connect much with critics when it was released, it certainly was an audience favorite. According to Yuzna, it was given an award by Fangoria for best horror film of the year, which was more telling of its general acceptance. I still managed to enjoy it, despite my problems with it, and I ended up liking a lot of things about it. It’s not the first film; I mean you can’t top a nude Barbara Crampton being nearly assaulted by a decapitated man’s head, but there’s still plenty to enjoy and appreciate if you’re any kind of a horror fan.
Arrow Video’s Region Free Blu-ray release of the film features two different versions of the movie: the Unrated version and the R-rated version. Both have been given brand new 2K restorations with final approval by Brian Yuzna. The R-rated version has been sourced from a second generation 35mm interpositive, while the Unrated version utilizes a composite master positive for the extended sequences. Because of this, there’s a noticeable visual difference when the extended footage occurs. Overall, grain is mostly well-refined and very organic in appearance, showing off a nice amount of fine detail. Colors are pretty strong, particularly greens and reds, although a bit inconsistent from scene to scene. Black levels also suffer a little due to some minor crush (which might stem from the original photography). Skin tones are also very good, and both contrast and brightness are at acceptable levels. There’s been no attempt at artificial sharpening or utilizing DNR, but there is some slight instability from time to time. The presentation is mostly clean, otherwise. The R-rated version doesn’t have a quite as well-refined grain field, and the overall image is a little softer in appearance. Colors are also not as strong, but everything else appears pretty much the same. For the audio, a single English 2.0 LPCM track is available. Dialogue is usually clean and clear, and both sound effects and score have plenty of life to them. There isn’t much to be had in terms of aggressive dynamics, but it’s a pretty solid stereo presentation, overall. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
As for extras, there’s a very nice selection of them (some of which were originally produced by Sharpline Arts). Discs one and two feature a Blu-ray and DVD of the Unrated version of the movie, which also include three audio commentaries: one with director Brian Yuzna; another with Yuzna, actor Jeffrey Combs, visual effects supervisor Tom Rainone, and the special effects team including John Buechler, Mike Deak, Bob Kurtzman, Howard Berger, and Screaming Mad George; and another with actors Combs and Bruce Abbott. There are also three featurettes: Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-animator, Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-animator, and Getting Ahead in Horror, a vintage making-of. Following all of that are some deleted scene reconstructions and the original theatrical trailer. Disc three features a Blu-ray of the R-rated version of the movie, as well as an additional behind the scenes segment. There’s also a small 24-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Michael Blyth and a large insert booklet containing a reprinting of the prequel comic “Dawn of the Re-Animator”.
Bride of Re-Animator excels when it comes to its effects, but unfortunately, its story just isn’t as interesting the second time around. Yet, it can be forgiven at times due its many memorable sequences. Arrow Video’s amazing treatment of the movie will surely make it a favorite in the horror community and is well-worth checking out.
- Tim Salmons