31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.
Nature of Shame:
Love Re-Animator. Blind-bought Arrow’s limited edition Bride of Re-Animator box as a result.
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1980’s
The Advance Word: The continued, hilarious antics of re-animated tissue. Stuart Gordon’s out. Brian Yuzna’s in as director.
#9. The Bride of Re-Animator
Do you remember in Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach when snarky, mechanical Matt McCoy took over the “straight man” role from Steve Guttenberg and we were just supposed to carry on and not care that it wasn’t actually Steve Guttenberg but rather a blonder, but still reasonable facsimile of Steve Guttenberg? I’m hearing a lot of blank stares, but trust me, Matt McCoy’s alright, but he’s just no Steve Guttenberg. (He is however an excellent Lloyd Braun.)
All the regular Police Academy pieces remained. Lassard. Hightower. Tackleberry. Jonesy. Callahan. Hooks. Harris and Proctor… but somehow without that Guttenberg/Mahoney glue that held everything together in perfect harmony through the first four films, Assignment: Miami Beach became a passable, but pale imitation of a Police Academy movie.
That’s paragraph best sums up how I felt about The Bride of Re-Animator, except in this scenario Stuart Gordon is Steve Guttenberg. You’re nodding in agreement, but the nod feels empty. Nonetheless, I’ll continue on as if you’re still paying attention and still agreeing with everything I’m saying.
Bride contains all of the necessary Re-Animator elements. First and foremost, its taste for the deliciously absurd combinations of random body parts. The eyeball hand really seems like it’d make a great pet… not so much the David Gale head with bat wings. Bride again embraced the oozy, gooey, gory squirts, drips and pustules. But the inclusion often felt like fan-service for the sake of the oozy and gooey.
Despite needing waders to navigate the splatter, the original Re-Animator made the gore seem perfectly relevant and story-driven, not just standalone set pieces. Bride seemed to say “Here’s some gore. There’s some goo. Are you not satisfied?”
“No,” we’d say, “because that’s just gross,” noting the hypocrisy of the sentiment, but knowing that we wanted more sincerity.
More Guttenberg and less McCoy. More Stuart Gordon and less Brian Yuzna. Though maybe we’re expecting too much from Brian Yuzna, a filmmaker who’s never exactly proven himself entirely capable behind the camera. Admission: I’ve yet to see Return of the Living Dead III, a film some have cited as an exception.
The next issue is that Yuzna intended Bride of Re-Animator as a direct sequel, yet his characters barely know themselves. I’m not going to get into a point-by-point comparison of how these McCoys are not Guttenbergs but suffice it to say that Bruce Abbott and Jeffrey Combs might as well be completely different characters. So much so, in fact, that I’m forced to wonder whether this was an intentional decision to further emulate the ways that the Universal horror directors flippantly discarded continuity to fashion films from their own molds. As a result, those Universal artists often bettered their respective products.
Re-Animator and Bride of Re-Animator clearly borrow from the Frankenstein series, but specifically choosing to sidestep character continuity would be a terribly stupid stylistic choice. Especially when that choice turns Bruce Abbott’s Dr. Dan Cain into an extra from Gray’s Anatomy. Combs meanwhile takes his Dr. Herbert West so far down the mad scientist trope that he loses the glimmer of humanity laced within the original Re-Animator. He was always supposed to be borderline psychotic, but here’s he completely lost his f’ing marbles.
The result of all these not-so-subtle shifts is a real McCoy, a real Matt McCoy. A film that looks, acts and talks like the Guttenberg, but can’t duplicate Re-Animator‘s precise balance of gory effects, black humor and inquiries into what makes us human. Had enough of the Police Academy references yet? Of course not. Nobody ever tires of Police Academy references. If you are, you must be a real Proctor.
Arrow’s Blu-ray does every muscle fiber, bone shard and blood squirt justice. The “squishy” sound effects come through clearer than the squeamish might like.
One might say The Bride of Re-Animator lacked a certain je ne sais quoi, but it’s pretty clear that Bride lacked merely the deft stitching of Stuart Gordon to piece together the necessary parts. The Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein source material had already done most of the arterial fitting, but hacking it up with Yuzna just didn’t cut it. I laughed. I cringed. But none of it felt quite right.
30Hz Movie Rating:
Blu-ray Verdict: The extras on this exquisite box set coupled with the transfer and multiple cuts of the film make it a worthy addition to a completist’s collection. I just so happen to be a completist that loves Re-Animator.
Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish