Sunday, March 12, 2006

Beyond Re-Animator

Title: Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
Dir: Brian Yuzna
Tagline: Welcome To Death Row. The Doctor Will See You Now.
Rating: * 1/2 out of 5 stars

This will be long, I have a lot of bones to pick with Beyond Re-Animator.

Maybe it's my overwhelming love for the original movie that has made Bride of Re-Animator sort of grow on me since my review. It certainly wasn't awful, and it had potential. It felt like the less witty younger brother of Re-Animator. The third installment, however, is NOTHING like either of its predecessors. And no, that is not a good thing.

This movie is a steaming pile of ass molasses.

I did not see Beyond Re-Animator because I am a completist. I saw it because I genuinely love the series, and I am more than willing to watch Jeffrey Combs do anything. Sure enough, he was the only redeemable thing about this one. Okay, it had a moment or two that made me smirk. But largely, I was just astounded by the awful acting, dialogue, and plotline.

So the plot goes like this: Herbert West is locked up in prison after one of his re-animated zombies killed a girl. In the pen, he continues his experiments on the sly, testing a new theory on rats. He has discovered "neuroplasm" that can be captured from specimens (by electrocution) and then given to a re-animated specimen to make them normal again. A young doctor, Howard Phillips, shows up to help Dr. West in his work. Turns out that he was the brother of that girl West inadvertantly killed, and he is interested in 'saving' people with West's reagent. Oh, and there's a chick - some reporter who is investigating the prison warden, and then West.

I'll start by ripping apart that plot. Firstly, why did it takes 3 movies for West to get imprisoned? It's not like his zombies never killed anyone before, so why the arrest now? I'm also kinda curious how his trial didnt make public all his work and thus expose the reagent to the scientific world. But whatever, that's not relevant, so I'll move on. So he's in prison now, doing more experiments from his cell. He creates a crude electrocution set-up from a LIGHT BULB. I know Herbert is brilliant and all, but c'mon. He also manages to collect this so-called neuroplasm inside a bulb, and somehow makes the conductor which inserts into the brain. How? Don't ask. All the neurplasm stuff is pretty absurd and insulting to anyone who knows anything about science, but I'll let that go. It's just a horror movie, afterall.

So then there's Dr. Phillips. Watching his sister get murdered somehow made him fascinated with Dr. West's work, but not at all in a vengeful way. In fact, he isn't even remotely bitter about it. The movie keeps emphasizing the doctor's obssession with his sister's death and his desire to save people (where he couldn't save her), but it's pretty difficult to believe he isn't at least a little angry at West.

That brings me to the actors. The dude playing Phillips (who's name is not worth looking up) is so awful. So, so awful. His bad acting even ruins a classic Jeffrey Combs moment! After killing the warden, West re-animates him without telling Phillips. So later when Phillips says, "The warden is dead!", West gives the best shifty-eyed "i didnt do it" look, to which Phillips screams, "GODDAMMIT!". It would've been a great moment except that 'goddammit' was the worst acting I've ever heard. Goddammit, indeed, ruining a classic Combs moment! I never loved Dan Cain, but this movie and this stupid actor really made me miss him. Bruce Abbott would've delivered that line perfect.

The chick in the movie, who does not cover her Spanish accent well at ALL, is not as bad as the doctor guy, but still not very good. Couldn't they get better actors for this shit?? Thank god for Combs. He brings some class and talent to the movie. Twenty years later, he still nails the role of Herbert West. He should've been in Beyond Re-Animator a LOT more, though. Too much of the film is taken up by the young, "good-looking" people (fuck that, I'll take Jeff any day). He's Herbert fucking West! After 3 movies, with Dan finally gone, can't Herbert finally have the lead?!?

So how's the gore in this one? Not as good as everyone claimed it to be. Jawless zombie drinking milk? Did anyone else think he looked exactly like Dr. Tongue from Day of the Dead? That was a disgustingly obvious rip-off. A guy overdoses on reagent and explodes? Gee, I seem to remember Re-Animator ending that way. The movie uses CGI where its predecessors obviously couldn't. And as usual, those old-fashioned FX are 100 times better. Having David Gale sit under a desk to give the appearance of a severed head 20 years ago looks way better than the horseshit in this movie.

Yuzna disappointed me with Bride, and downright appalled me with Beyond. Stuart Gordon, come back, for the love of god!!! Yuzna seems like a nice guy and I think he really loves the series, but he just fucks it up. He tries to give Beyond a modern, edgy feel but it looks stupid.

Combs, as always, is the glue holding the movie together. He is just not capable of boring me, and I especially love him as West. His character isn't the same as it used to be (maybe 13 years in prison does that to ya), but it still worked. He is much older (obviously) and pretty normal compared to the weirdos surrounding him in this movie. I do miss the nerdier, wussier West. He has a slightly bigger backbone in this one, but elements of the young West do shine through. There's a moment where the warden discovers West's secret lab, and Herbert stands in front of his work. The warden tells him to move, and Herbert gives a half-second of defiance and then sheepishly moves. I laughed because that's classic West, and it was a relief to see ANYTHING that resembled the original movie.

As for the non-Jeff moments I liked, there's a so-weird-its-amusing scene involving a severed penis and a rat. And it kinda amused me when one prisoner explodes from the reagent, and then his exploded body gets up and asks for another fix. It's very cheesy, but I chuckled.

As much as these films are increasingly letting me down, I do hope for more sequels (only with Jeff, of course). I keep coming back because I love West and his story. But alas, horror films just aren't as entertaining as they used to be. It's like once we hit the 1990s, all the black humor got sucked from horror. Since 2000, even worse. I should've known better than to watch a 2003 sequel to Re-Animator, but my naivete and love for the original keep bringing me back. And as long as Combs is on-board, I will continue to crawl back.