Sunday, 10 April 2016

bride of re-animator

bride of re-animator picks up the story of herbert west eight months after the events shown in the first film (which i reviewed here). west and fellow medical student dan cain have fled the country and are helping out as volunteers in a south american civil war, which gives west the perfect cover to continue testing his reanimating serum. when cain is injured they decide to return home in the hope that the heat from the miskatonic university massacre has died down, but they soon discover that the full consequences of that adventure are still to come.

producer of the first film, brian yuzna, takes directing duties on the sequel and there is a noticeable shift in tone and focus. yuzna, of course, is no stranger to directing bizarre movies and made the insane and squelchy horror film society in the same year he made this film. while the effects in re-animator were wonderfully excessive and suitably disgusting, here they are taken to a new level with added weirdness as west becomes obsessed with joining random body parts together. yuzna clearly loves this element of the film and makes the most of it, particularly in the finale.

jeffrey combs is as awesome here as he was in the first film. it seems odd to describe any performance as understated in such a flamboyant film but combs delivers his lines with a subtlety that actually adds a contrasting layer of reality to the story. all the genuinely funny moments in the script come from combs too, mostly because of the perfect timing of his deadpan delivery.

the focus on the bizarre effects does take a toll on the story, which doesn't feel as focused as that of the previous film. west wants to continue his experiments and needs cain's help, so in order to get his friend on board he offers to resurrect cain's ex-girlfriend, megan halsey (barbara crampton's character in the first film), using her heart and body parts from other corpses. this is where things become a bit complicated story-wise, because of course it's not really about the bride of re-animator but in fact the bride of his friend and sometime assistant. in fact, you could argue that the title is completely misleading because the bride isn't going to be cain's lover at all, it's a child. stick with me on this...

there are three key factors that have lead me to this conclusion. first of all, from the moment west tenderly helps a wounded cain to his feet in the opening sequence it becomes clear that this is most definitely a bromance. the film doesn't give us any solid reason for west to need cain's help. in the first film west is presented as being completely asexual, and while the same could be true here, he expresses definite frustration in the scene where he hears cain having sex in the room above as he works. he also disfigures the dog belonging to cain's girlfriend and shows her the results in a clear attempt at driving her away. when you put all this together it seems obvious that west only wants cain around because he's in love with him,

secondly, cain doesn't care about megan all that much, certainly not enough to risk jail to bring her back from the dead. cain has two female love interests in this film, which suggests he's not all that torn up over the death of his ex. west's plan to get cain onside by resurrecting also megan seems like a typical closeted movie homosexual subplot - gay guy convinces straight guy to like him by offering access to the woman he's in love with. however, the fact that cain doesn't seem too bothered by megan's return and yet helps west anyway suggests that perhaps cain also has feelings for his friend.

finally, there is a strong sense of west and cain being social outcasts because of west's experiments, and west mentions a few times that they have to act in secret because no one will understand what they are trying to do. two men experimenting in secret in a basement because they feel 1989 society at large will not understand them if they come out. that's why i think the bride is more representative of a child, because it's a story of two men finding a non-biological method of human reproduction.

if you follow that reading of the film there's actually a really touching moment when west is about to inject his serum into the bride and cain takes the syringe from him so he can do it himself. it's the first time cain injects the serum into anyone so it's a huge moment and west clearly feels it. there's probably a deeper reading involving serum and penetration, but i think you get the general idea.

whether you're with me on the above or not, bride of re-animator is a really imaginative film with an amazing and subtle central performance from jeffrey combs. it is also worth seeing for the special effects, particularly as it shows off some of the early work of effects giants k.n.b. and maverick genius screaming mad george. the film looks great on blu-ray and there are some great special features including a fascinating interview with yuzna and three commentaries.

arrow films release bride of re-animator on dual format blu-ray and dvd on monday 11th april

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