"Anything you say to me can, and will, be misquoted or taken out of context." -Elsa Pataky, Beyond Re-Animator
"Things only go from bad to worse, as nobody takes well to either the re-agent or the nano-plasm and before you know it there's a grisly full scale riot at the prison with escaping prisoners, re-agent being injected everywhere, and a rat that likes to nibble on penis! Outstanding!" -Lawrence P. Raffel
"Outstanding! -Monsters At Play" -Quote taken from back of the Beyond Re-Animator case
Irony is always a staple in good horror. Irony is Frankenstein's monster rejected by the woman designed to be his mate. Irony is Ben surviving the zombies' overnight onslaught only to be shot by the police the following morning. Irony is the parents of Springdale murdering Freddy Krueger in life, only to have him become an even bigger threat in death. Irony is Dr. Herbert West seemingly killed by the very dead he brought back to life at the end of not one, but TWO movies. I guess reviewing all these horror movies makes us a little more susceptible to being involved in some good old fashioned irony. To be taken out of context on the back cover of a movie that features that great line quoted above is, well, ironic. Not that Beyond Re-Animator is a bad film. No, if anything, Beyond Re-Animator is a fine example of how a sequel should be done: a refinement of the previous film's formula without being a simple retread. Bride of Re-Animator's Halloween II style continuation of the first film's storyline was admirable, but not nearly the cult classic that Re-Animator was. Beyond doesn't reach the lofty status the first obtained either, but it's an intensely satisfying watch nonetheless.
As a young lad, Dr. Howard Philips (Jason Barry) witness his sister's murder at the hands of one of Herbert West's creations. Thirteen years later, his obsession with resuscitating the dead brings him to the prison where Dr. West (Jeffrey Combs) is serving a sentence for his past crimes, including his involvement in the Miskatonic Massacre. Dr. Philips kept a little souvenir from his encounter with West: a syringe of West's infamous green serum. Philips wants to work with West in order to perfect the reanimation process, and West thinks he has found the solution to the previous problems. All living organisms have nanoplasmic energy (NPE) that is released upon death. This NPE can do many wondrous things, including "imprinting" behaviors on the reanimated dead. Unfortunately, they never get a chance to try it on their first co-production, the devoutly religious Moses. Moses is left in a mindlessly violent state (with echoes of Dean Halsey from the original) which leads to questions being asked, particularly by Howard's nosey (but pretty) reporter love interest, Laura Olney. Laura's snooping gets her killed by the sadistic Warden Brando (well played by Simon Andreu), and later reanimated by the heartbroken Howard. The movie starts running full bore at this point, with West playing musical chairs with NPE in various subjects (including that of a rat on the Warden) during a full-scale prison riot.
As I said before, this movie takes the Re-Animator formula and hones it to razor sharpness (including an amazing reworking of the original theme), at the expense of some of the magic. Howard is an almost perfect replacement for Bruce Abbot‘s Dan Cain, playing the part of the wide-eyed, naively noble foil quite well. Also notable is Simon Andreu, whose Warden Brando is both arrogant and sadistic in his living form, and very creepy in his reanimated state (especially when he takes on a rat's more physical characteristics). Besides that, the actors do a fairly mediocre job, with Elsa Pataky's no-gray-area style of acting, with her either woodenly reading her lines or shrieking them like a banshee, being the guiltiest of parties. I'm sure a lot of this can be chalked up to the mostly Spanish talent, seeing as how English is a second language for them. The standout in the cast is, of course, Jeffrey Combs as West. Watching him back behind the test tubes is like a favorite pair of jeans: well-worn and comfortable. However, we find a dollar in the pocket in that Combs' maturity has given West an extra edge. He seems colder, darker, more cynical, as if hardened by his years of prison. A leaner, meaner West helps out this movie immensely, giving us a little more change than Bride did. Not only that, but this movie is darker than the series has ever been before.
Brian Yuzna's direction cloaks the monochromatic sets in shadows and dark corners, Xavi Capella's amazing score is reminiscent of Danny Elfman with a dash of techno beats (which is used to great effect during the film's climax), and the Screaming Mad George practical effects are as good as they come. In fact, I could easily say that the climax of the movie is the most satisfying I've seen in ages. Many movies sputter out and deliver a never-ending series of "big finishes" that don't live up to the rest of the movie. BRA (now that's an acronym!) and its prison riot finale left me grinning like an idiot with its rapid cuts, great fights (even West takes the kid gloves off), and a Silence of The Lambs-reminiscent finale that leaves the door open without leaving us hanging. Sure, it lacks the bite of the original's ending (nothing chills quite like that all-black frame with the emptying syringe), and the sheer lunacy of the original (but can anything top Megan Halsey's molestation by a headless Dr. Hill?) but as far as sequels go, you can't do much better.
Lions Gate has put out BRA (there it is again) on DVD with very nice results. Picture quality is scalpel-sharp, with deep, solid blacks, and bold colors. Skin tones looked a little too reddish at times (even on the notoriously pale Jeffrey Combs) and there was some print dirt and speckles which didn't hurt the overall look much at all. Audio is available in either 2.0 stereo or a 5.1 surround mix. Both of them are crystal clear, with the 5.1 mix offering some great surround usage to show off that home theater system. Extras include director's commentary, trailers, and an odd making-of featurette. For some damn reason , half of the documentary is in Spanish without pre-done subtitles, so make sure you know where that Subtitle button is on the DVD remote so you can understand what's going on. Strangest, and greatest, of the extras is a music video for Dr. Re-Animator's "Move Your Dead Bones," a thoroughly awful yet distressingly catchy euro-dance track. Only one word to describe this one, folks: surreal.
One last note for all you gore hounds out there: Lions Gate has released BRA as an R-Rated feature. Some of the scenes of violence seem a bit abbreviated (and oddly edited, to boot) but there's still enough juiciness to satiate you sickness. Especially surprising is that most of the rat/severed penis gags are remaining to horrify your friends, including the hilariously tasteless credits sequence. So you'll be able to enjoy all that sick shit Lawrence told you about last year (review here)! Outst--ahem...good.