Beyond Re-Animator

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry & Elsa Pataky
Mosaic Entertainment

Certificate: 18
Available now

As a boy, Doctor Phillip Howard (Lovecraft's own initials in reverse) witnesses the death of his sister by a re-animated corpse. Years later he conducts his residency at a prison where Herbert West, the mad scientist himself, is held. With West as his assistant, Howard is soon well out of his depth. A rat is the first subject of re-animation, followed by a religious psychotic inmate. A woman reporter and the sadistic prison warden also get embroiled in the mix. But when West devises a way of capturing a person's life essence and transferring it to others, chaos ensues...

Although Edgar Allan Poe is a better known writer, because of the many film adaptations of his horror stories, H. P. Lovecraft is for me a much better wordsmith from around that period. However, his eerie other-dimensional beings and the grander weaving of his tales make it considerably more difficult to commit his words to the big screen. Re-animator and this sequel are both very loosely based on Herbert West: Re-animator, one of only a handful of Lovecraft's long short-stories which can more easily jump to other media formats.

However, Lovecraft would be turning in his grave after witnessing this debacle. I didn't know whether to laugh, cringe or sigh; these were not emotions induced by the script or characters, but rather more simple reactions to what is pretty much a mess. The problem is that Beyond Re-animator can't decide what to be. The gore for gore's sake belongs more in the eighties age of so-called video nasties. Characters are brought back from the dead, emerge insane, and then generally roam around biting body parts off of various people. But what do you expect from an effects technician called Screaming Mad George?

The impression is that half the film was already in the can when it was decided to emulate its predecessor with dark humour. It's an obvious attempt at The Evil Dead without ever approaching that film's status. Extras apparently consist of a trailer, making of documentary, and cast and crew interviews; although because mine is a preview disc sans extras, I can't comment on their content.

The film itself has two redeeming factors. The prison inmate who pops pills like Smarties during a riot, injects himself with the re-animation serum and continues his search for drugs, despite his insides having exploded and resembling a viscera-covered ghoul. When the film is over and the credits roll we see a twenty-second sequence which is so hilarious the rest of the feature pales into insignificance. A returned from the dead rat has a stand-up fight with a bitten-off penis. Fisticuffs and 'head'-butts galore! Why couldn't the rest of the movie be this good? A wasted opportunity.

Ty Power