Review: Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

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The opening credits to Bride of Re-Animator are a microcosm for the central problems that plague the sequel to the 1985 horror comedy. It announces a limping modesty with its title barely engulfing H.P. Lovecraft’s name as opposed to the original, which acknowledged its roots and with a bold surety presented itself as a fantastic new creation. Moreover, composer Richard Band took Bernard Herrman’s sharp and stirring Psycho theme and transformed it into an amusing dance piece, illustrating that the film was aware of its cinematic heritage and was steadfast in subverting it. Band’s theme in the sequel lacks ferocious energy, and in the middle of its duration, it has a lush and passionate interlude that hints at a romantic tone in the film.

Barely any of Bride of Re-Animator has this newly established quality. Instead, the picture feels like an exercise in dull and procedural setup, which it does in the most conventional manner possible in its first two acts. The film has an utter lack of vitality,  due to the loss of Stuart Gordon, who injected the proceedings with a sly sense of humour through the framing, lighting and cutting, which gave the original its sublime comedic edge. Brian Yuzna who was the producer of the original pictures takes over the director duties for the sequel. The result is a shoddy and amateurish patchwork, which comes from strange choices, a lack of atmosphere and the camera not being employed in a particularly interesting manner.

Nevertheless, the film does occasionally have some great small moments that hint at a better film, which is hidden beneath the average depths. There is a scene in the third act where Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) expounds upon his latest creation to Dan Cain. (Bruce Abbot) Using a semi-erotic and soothing tone, Combs’ performance at this moment make the horrifying creation seem appealing and seductive. Combs also injects this with a matter of fact rationality as he casually disregards the lives of the people whom he is stolen body parts of.

Abbot’s performance in Bride of Re-Animator marginally improves as he accentuates the scene as mentioned above with precise and focused facial expressions as though West’s words have utterly enraptured him. He brings this similar quality at the tail end of the film when he looks upon the titular Bride for the first time. In these moments, the film hints at the Gothic kookiness of Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Frankenstein, but ultimately lacks the melodramatic flair that permeated that picture. The tragic romantic quality of the film also manifests in these series of scenes. The most striking example is when The Bride rips out her heart, which once belonged to Dan’s late fiance- Megan. She faces the awe-struck Cain and shouts out while holding the heart, “Is this what you want?”

The moment has one of the great iconic images of the horror cinema, filled with fever-laden intensity and devastating implication. It’s a shame that the rest of Bride of Re-Animator does not match the sheer majesty and terror of that shot.

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About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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