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Beyond Re-Animator (2002)
Director: Brian Yuzna
review by Tom Matic
The Re-Animator sequence appears to be following the pattern of the Hammer Frankenstein films, with the coldly amoral antihero (Jeffrey Combs' Herbert West and Peter Cushing's Frankenstein) recruiting a naïve new acolyte to assist him in his experiments. With its graveyard humour, Terence Fisher's direction anatomised all those botched resurrections as coolly as Baron von Frankenstein dissected corpses. Black comedy and a preoccupation with body parts is also a constant feature of the Re-Animator movies, and this is no exception. But what gave Re-Animator its edgy gallows humour was a keen sense of the horror of preventable death motivating West's accomplice. In Beyond Re-Animator the sick gags are cheapened by the film's failure to do this.
With his latest scheme to revive the dead once again descending into a bloody fiasco, Herbert West is finally thrown into jail. It's amazing that this never happened before. It's difficult to see how he can continue his previous activity: administering a green, gloopy pick-me-up to corpses. However, it isn't long before he enlists the help of an unlikely accomplice: the young prison doctor Howard (Jason Barry), who has implausibly hero-worshipped West since his boyhood, when he witnessed the horrific events that led to West's arrest 13 years earlier. But how will they get hold of any of West's reanimating serum? Conveniently Howard still has a phial of the fluid, which he discovered as a boy. To stretch credibility even further, the film clumsily attempts to bring the Re-Animator series into the 21st century with some pseudo-scientific gobbledygook about "Nano-Plasmic Energy."
The morbid male bonding between West and Howard is disrupted by the arrival of a beautiful female journalist (Elsa Pataky), the love interest for the young prison doctor. This being a Re-Animator film, she must be molested by a lecherous older male authority figure, violently killed and then reanimated. In this case the culprit is the brutal prison governor (Simon Andreu), and her resurrection gives her a chance to mete out poetic justice by blowjob. This Lorena Bobbit-style fellatio leads to one of the film's better running jokes. Maybe the governor's dismembered member should star in its own spinoff, perhaps entitled something like 'The Beast With One Eye'. Another is the prison dope-head, an escapee from a Cheech and Chong movie, who becomes addicted to West's zombie juice.
West is presented much more sympathetically than in Re-Animator, almost in a heroic light, as though Yuzna were trying to do The Shawshank Redemption as a splatter movie. But I preferred the creepier, more sinister West of the first film, a cold fish you definitely wouldn't want as a flatmate. Beyond Re-Animator doesn't really get going until the inevitable, climactic prison riot. Until then, the direction is lacklustre, the camerawork pedestrian, lacking the manic vitality of Stuart Gordon's original. The plot simply reworks Re-Animator, a storyline derived from what was not one of H.P. Lovecraft's best stories anyway. However, there are a few cheap and nasty thrills and laughs along the way.
DVD extras include widescreen transfer, a music video, and the inevitable trailer and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
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