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DVD REVIEW

Beyond Re-Animator  (2003)

 

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Elsa Pataky

Director: Brian Yuzna

Rating: R

Distributor: Lions Gate Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 30, 2003
Review posted: January 7, 2004

Spoilers: Minor/Major

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

Synopsis

 

Dr. Herbert West (Combs) is serving a prison sentence for conducting illegal experiments. When a young doctor arrives to work as the prison MD and requests his assistance, Dr. West discovers the young protégé has something he left behind so many years ago. Together they begin to work on a new experiment that changes the life of every unsuspecting test subject, naturally.

 

Critique

 

The opening scene in Beyond Re-Animator is different from the previous two films in the series. Two kids camp outside their house in a small tent, but go back inside after a series of strange sounds. Before you know it, one of the kids, Howard, witnesses his sister killed by a mutilated corpse because she was in the way of a milk carton. Across the street the police arrest Dr. West who drops a syringe containing the secret formula for bringing back the dead, and Howard, who has been watching, picks it up. The film cuts thirteen years into the future and we are introduced to Dr. West inside his prison cell conducting a new experiment on a rat. That's the backstory. The story picks up once the adult Howard (Jason Barry), now a doctor, shows up to work at the prison and requests the assistance of Dr. West.

 

What follows is a simple story. It's not just some run-of-the-mill plot. Some of it is actually not all that bad. Here it is: A female reporter, Laura (Elsa Pataky), is conducting an interview with the prison warden, Brando (Simón Andreu), at the same time as Dr. West and Howard begin to test the new re-animation experiment on a heart-attack victim. Things go awry when the test subject attacks two officers and bruises Laura's ankle (seriously). Warden Brando has always suspected Dr. West of being up to no good, and this time he finds out. One subplot involves Laura and Howard becoming intimate. The only good thing about it is it resolves in a most hilarious and gruesome manner. I won't get into the plot any further than this, but I will say that halfway through the film everything gets turned upside down and chaos ensues. In fact, everything in the second half of the film feels like an overly long mutilation and killing spree, which grows rather tiresome after a while. Oops, I guess I let it slip.

 

Beyond Re-Animator doesn't really care about a story unless it serves a decent purpose to showcase gallons of blood, guts and severed body parts. In that respect the film achieves its goal; to gross out. The effects are pretty cool. The horror aspect of the film is limited to to just that; it's not scary in the least. Yet the film is not without its share of wry humor. You can still count on Jeffrey Combs to deliver his lines with that signature facial expression. Aside from Combs and Barry, the entire cast consists of Spanish actors. This means almost every line of dialogue is dubbed in English, even those by Barry. It seems like Combs is the only one who had his lines recorded on the set, but I can't be sure. Most of the crew is also Spanish. I think the film was shot in Mexico, yet director Brian Yuzna does a good job of doubling the location for another city, except in the profile shot of the prison.

 

One large inconsistency in the film is the fact that Dr. West doesn't age one bit as the story moves ahead thirteen years. This is forgiveable, however, since I didn't really expect the production to address the issue of aging. As a horror film, Beyond Re-Animator is fine. The script does a good job of bringing back Dr. West and centering the story around him as he serves time in prison. Looking back at it, the story is not completely throwaway. The part of the story that does become throwaway is the second half. But again, I didn't expect much.

 

On the more positive side, the score by Xavi Capellas is done quite nicely. Of course, Richard Band's original Re-Animator theme is featured in the familiar opening credit sequence as well as in the end of the film. The obvious highlight of the film is Jeffrey Combs. He's still got it down, the signature one-liners and reactions. I'd say he's good for one more Re-Animator film, maybe. The supporting cast is decent at best. Don't get me started on the acting. It's bad, but then it's not bad considering the standards. The actors are not all unknowns as some have small careers in their respective countries. Jason Barry is from Dublin, Ireland, for example.

 

The film's tagline is displayed on the front cover of the DVD and reads, "Welcome to Death Row. The Doctor Will See You Now." Yes, it makes sense and is somewhat amusing. The taglines of the previous two films are more original. Re-Animator goes, "Death Is Just The Beginning", and The Bridge of Re-Animator says,

"Date. Mate. Re-animate." Now that's funny. By the way, check out the rat that sits below the letter "o" on the cover. Isn't that the most hilarious thing? The cover by itself is pretty standard, screaming "straight to video".

 

The Video

 

Lions Gate Films presents Beyond Re-Animator in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are not all too well-saturated, but detail is good. The print image looks fine with some specks and grain appearing in spots. Black levels aren't exactly solid, but they get the job done. Some scenes are not lit well enough, so there is a sense of deteriorating quality in the "look" of the picture. Most scenes, however, look just fine. The video here is a decent affair. It gets the job done.

 

The Audio

 

Lions Gate Films presents Beyond Re-Animator in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. There is not much to report here. A lot of the audio is front-heavy. Of course, dialogue is mainly clear and easy to understand, except a few dubbed lines are off. Sound effects are put to good use, well, somewhat. Surrounds don't really act on them that much. Rear speakers come alive only a few times as the score swells up. Overall, it's an average presentation.

 

The Extras

 

The DVD features an audio commentary by director Brian Yuzna. He speaks almost continuously, only slowing down a few times. His comments are be general at times, but also kind of insightful as he talks about the production. I didn't learn much from this track, but fans of the Re-Animator series might appreciate it.

 

Next is a Making-of that features interviews with cast and crew, explores some of the film's effects shots, and contains enough on-set footage to suggest the film was indeed shot in another country and with Spanish actors. With the Spanish cast speaking in their native tongue Lions Gate offers viewers English subtitles.

 

Last but not least is an amusing music video from some Spanish hunk. The song is called "Move Your Dead Bones" and includes some hilarious lines, like "re-animate your feet" and "you can party all your life". The video also features a few dance numbers set inside a prison set. How funny is that? I never would've thought a film like Beyond Re-Animator would license a music video tie-in, but anything is possible. Anyway, check out the video and prepare to laugh.

 

As a side note, the synopsis on the back cover incorrectly specifies the number of years Dr. West spent in prison. According to the film it is 13 years, not 14.

 

You can select to view the film with optional English subtitles. The 95-minute feature is organized into twenty-four chapters.

 

Overall

 

Beyond Re-Animator is a horror film well done. It includes enough blood, guts and severed body parts to please fans of the series, however, some may be disappointed at the film's second half. Lions Gate's video/audio quality is average. Extras are fine. The film has its problems, but if you're looking for a forgetful horror then you could make this a rental. Anyone else is better off skipping it.

 

RATINGS SUMMARY

 

THE MOVIE 5
THE VIDEO 7

THE AUDIO

6

THE EXTRAS

5

OVERALL (not an average)

5

 

VERDICT: RENT IT

 


 

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