Thursday, July 7, 2011

Movie Review: Beyond Re-Animator

  Dr. Herbert West (Jeffery Combs) returns for the third installment of the Re-Animator franchise.  His former assistant has turned states evidence against him, and he has been in prison for a decade.  The new prison doctor; Dr. Howard Phillips (Jason Barry), witnessed the gruesome results of one of Dr. West's experiments and the tragic death of his sister as a boy.  Since then, he has been obsessed with West's work.  He has been studying a vial of the re-agent, and took the position in the prison specifically to have access to West.  West has been conducting his own experiments, and has discovered that what is missing from his re-animated experiments is an electrical discharge that occurs at the time of death.  He has found a way to capture that discharge and believes he can implant it into one of his re-animated experiments and correct their psychosis. With Phillip's willing assistance, West is soon up to his old tricks, setting loose killer re-animated corpses and vials of the re-agent amongst the prison population.  Added to this mix is a tyrannical and neurotic prison warden (Simon Andrue) and an attractive investigative journalist (Elsa Pataky), and all hell is going to break loose.

 Brian Yuzna is back as the director/producer, and delivers the same kind of twisted tale as was seen in the first two installments.  Beyond Re-Animator is arguably not on par with the original film, but I think this is to be expected.  The original was just that... original.  Re-Animator did things that had not even been considered in films past (cunnilingus performed by a decapitated head, anyone?).  This film has similar oddities (a re-animated penis), but it is what we who follow the franchise have come to expect.

 What makes Beyond Re-Animator, and the entire Re-Animator series, great to watch is that you can tell that despite the minimal budgets involved everyone enjoys what they are doing and is actually having fun.  Beyond Re-Animator is a spook-house ride type horror film; you go into knowing it is going to have some gore, some thrills, and a lot of camp.  This is a horror film that is not meant to frighten, but rather to amuse. 

 Beyond Re-Animator uses a mix of traditional and CGI special-effects.  The special effects of this franchise have always been a little-off, so it is not surprising that the mix does not come off smoothly.  This is irritating to some, but is also common to b-horror films.  The story builds on the model layed-down by horror-fiction author H.P. Lovecraft, who's work was the inspiration for this franchise.  It builds slowly, establishing some background and setting the atmosphere, and then builds, layer-by-layer, which each turn making things a little more disturbing until everything is in chaos and almost completely departed from reality.  The acting is also sometimes a little off, the characters in these stories are more often than not caricatures and not as fully developed as they could be.  Jeffery Combs, who has played West in each film of the franchise and has had a role in several Lovecraft-inspired films, acts as an obsessed and driven scientist... and little else.  Outside of these films, Combs may display a range of emotion and acting talents, but within them he is basically like a one-note tune.

 However, it is the collection of these inadequacies that lend these films some of their appeal.  Beyond Re-Animator is worth the watch, but in the end is just more of the same.  In this case, that is not a bad thing.


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