Horror Bob Presents: The Horror Review

  Beyond Re-Animator   (2003)

 Film Title: Beyond Re-Animator Year Released: 2003
Reviewed By: Egregious Gurnow
Movie Website: Click Here
Overall Stars: ***1/2 Scare Factor: **

 

   From the pen of Miguel Tejada-Flores, one of 30 co-writers involved in the creation of Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff's The Lion King, comes Beyond Re-Animator, director Brian Yuzna’s third installment in one of the most consistent, solid franchises in horror cinema history, Re-Animator.  Structurally and spiritually akin to Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond, Yuzna remains true to the series with his gloriously excessive combination of highbrow ideas presented by way of caustically lowbrow visuals and storyline. 

   Thirteen years after Doctor Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is convicted and sentenced for the Miskatonic Massacre after his assistant, Dan Cain, turned State’s evidence against him, the mad doctor believes he has found the missing element in his reanimation agent.  Unfortunately, due to his present circumstance, he is unable to concoct a new batch of the life-giving fluid to test his theory.  However, when a young doctor, Howard Phillips (Jason Barry), requests he conduct his residency at the prison in which West is confined, West is assigned as Phillips’s assistant.  Phillips quickly reveals he wants to be the elder’s protégé after witnessing his sister’s (Bárbara Elorrieta) death at the hands of one of West’s creations years prior.  Yet West’s experiments are postponed when Phillips becomes infatuated with a journalist named Laura Olney who is doing a story over the penitentiary.  Luckily for West, his assistant’s initial ethical reluctance is shed once Olney succumbs to a premature death at the hands of the prison warden, Brando (Simón Andreu).

The Highbrow

   The first thing one notices with the plot of Beyond Re-Animator is the trademark Yuzna theme of the central protagonist--at first hesitant to engage in experimental or questionable acts on the basis of morality--encountering love, the catalyst which permits his character to instantaneously transcend his previous reservations in hopes of sallying forth in order to save his object of adoration.  Yet, though somewhat formulaic for the director, this nonetheless permits Yuzna to create and sustain tension before opening his narrative’s gates to a barrage of very climatic conflict and action.  As such, in typical Yuzna fashion, we are given a highly entertaining storyline which never permits a moment’s apathy on behalf of its viewer.

   However, far more engaging is the iconoclastic manner in which all of the Re-Animator films present several in-depth, thought-provoking ideas via a juxtaposed and otherwise gratuitous plot.  In Re-Animator, concurrent with Lovecraft’s original story in which West states, “I, myself, still held some curious notions about the traditional ‘soul,’” and “[ . . . ] for the most part I shared the materialism of my friend,” we are greeted with the Doctor’s discovery that at the time of death, 3-4 grams of weight are instantly lost.  West refers to this as Nanoplasmic Energy, or NPE, which--though it is never explicitly stated--is the soul made manifest and material in that West is able to capture, contain, and later transplant the NPE of living organisms.

   Not only are the plot elements substantive, but the dialogue plays its role as competent counterpart--albeit only at specific instances while being notably absent during others--such as when the warden and Phillips, upon their first meeting, examine and exchange thoughts upon the nature of ideas, presented as a thinly veiled metaphor for West himself:

  Warden:  “An idea can be like a disease.  If you are treating a patient and you discover a minor anomaly,

                  do you ignore it?  No, Doctor, no.  You cut it out.”

  Phillips:  “Some growths are benign.” 

  Warden:  “Not inside these [the prison’s] walls.”

   Granted, much is given to the weight of the tête-à-tête by way of delivery and actor’s performances, of which, Combs is in high form as he continues to masterfully perfect West’s ability to look down at someone taller than he is as he preoccupies himself with his studies at the cost of everything and everyone around him while keeping them at a safe distance via his acrid wit. 

The Middlebrow

   The obvious reference to the story’s creator, Lovecraft, is so blatant in the screenwriters’ naming of the central character Howard Phillips, that it can only be viewed as a loving tongue-in-cheek homage, which is made all the more obvious by their inclusion of Laura Olney, who shares the same surname as the main character in a minor story of the gothic author, “The Strange High House in the Mist.” 

   On a similar note, there is a counterbalance in regard to the various cinematic allusions.  A zombie (Ángel Plana), devoid of a lower jaw, wiggles his tongue at the camera during the opening scene, à la the beginning of George Romero’s Day of the Dead.  Now, to offset the girth of the previous wink-and-nod, a zombie named Moses (Nico Baixas) severs the nipple of a nurse (Raquel Gribler) in the same fashion that Peter Bark’s character of Michael does in Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground.  Lastly--and this is left to the reader’s own estimate as to how to classify the scenario--there is one more, though easily refutable, horror film reference as the warden loses a prize member during the production via the same method that Fred Lincoln’s character, Weasel, does in Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left.

The Lowbrow

   Now, if the act of penis dismemberment isn’t permitted to be categorized as lowbrow due to the “creative” manner in which it occurs, we have one inmate, Cabrera (Enrique Arce), who is severed at the waist, who nonetheless remains mobile enough to enact vengeance upon West for using his pet rat (“Ratty”) in his experiments.  Agreed, in and of itself this could be viewed as merely the story naturally unfolding, yet when West takes the torso and swings it around the room by a rope before releasing it, permitting centripetal force do the rest, we irrefutably slam head-first (pun intended) into lowbrow. 

   Of course, unrepentant gratuitous nudity comes in the form of the aforementioned nurse whom, from her introduction, is obviously, conveniently wearing nothing under her lab coat. 

   Yuzna continues to answer the probing questions as well.  Speedball (Santiago Segura), while popping pills like sunflower seeds, closes the book on almost 20-years of theoretical speculation upon what exactly would occur if a living being were injected with the reanimation serum.  The answer comes in a form only a die-hard horror fan could love.

   Obviously, Brian Yuzna’s Beyond Re-Animator is a fun-filled, aesthetically manipulating affair as it stands as yet another admirable chapter in the Re-Animator series.  However, regardless of the tentative enjoyment one might get from the work, the director shot the production in Spain, where his special effects company--Fantastic Factory--is located.  This said, the film takes place in Massachusetts but the viewer’s suspension of disbelief is rigorously challenged due to the dubious (raised eyebrow of acknowledgement for those who watched the film) amount of Hispanics, both incarcerated as well as employed, within the prison. 

 -Egregious Gurnow

   

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