• Beyond Re-Animator

    Released by: Lionsgate Entertainment
    Released on: July 26th, 2018.
    Director: Brian Yuzna
    Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Bárbara Elorrieta, Elsa Pataky, Simon Andreu
    Year: 2003
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    The Movie:

    Brian Yuzna’s Beyond Re-Animator starts off with a pretty killer prologue. In 1990, Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is taken into custody when his former partner, Dan Cain, turns states evidence on him after a zombie that he created kills a teenage girl in her kitchen one dark and rainy night. Not only that, but the zombie does it in front of two young boys – and it has the audacity to drink their milk straight out of the carton! A cop shows up and saves the kids, but it’s too late for the girl. Little does West know that this night will have some pretty serious repercussions on his future, both professionally and personally. Cue the opening credits.

    From there, we fast forward thirteen years to the present day and we find Combs locked up in a maximum-security prison. Here he’s trying vainly to continue his experiments using what primitive means are available to him on the prison’s rodent population. It’s not going as well as he would like, but West being West, is determined.

    A new Doctor by the name of Howard (Jason Barry) is brought in to the prison to work on the inmates and he requests that West’s services be made available to him on the basis that he’ll need a hand every now and then. Well, it turns out that Howard is the brother of the girl who was killed in the kitchen those thirteen years ago. Since that fateful night, Howard has studied up on West and knows about his past. Howard figures if they work together they can break down the barriers between life and death and do some genuinely good for the world with their experiments… but yeah, that’s if they can work together.

    While all of this is going on, Howard begins to fall for a foxy looking reporter named Laura (the beautiful Elsa Pataky – who would later star in Snakes On A Plane, a few Fast And The Furious movies and Thor: Ragnarok) who is doing an investigative piece on the man who runs the compound, Warden Brando (Simon Andreu, who appeared alongside Lee Van Cleef in Bad Man’s River!). The Warden, however, has other plans and when he finds out that West and Howard are working together and using some of his inmates as guinea pigs, things get ugly. A prison riot soon erupts, causing Howard and West to have to figure their way out of the mess that they’ve created for themselves.

    The film starts off with a great opening scene and keeps moving at a reasonably brisk pace from start to finish, culminating in the prison riot where we finally get to see what happens when the re-agent is given to a living human being (no shock that the results are messy!) and when a rat gets re-animated. That said, Beyond Re-Animator is far from perfect. The acting is subpar even by low budget horror movie standards, and I’d guess that a big part of the reason why this is would be because it was shot primarily with a Spanish cast. But those flaws aside, the movie is fun and the gore effects from Screamin’ Mad George are a lot of fun and don’t hold back at all.

    As you’d expect if you’ve seen the first two pictures, Combs is good enough to carry the picture. It’s hard to imagine anyone else ever playing Herbert West, Combs really does make the role his own. The back and forth between he and Jason Barry isn’t quite as fun as what transpired between he and Bruce Abbott in the first two movies but it’s close enough to work. Else Pataky makes a great female lead – she’s not only quite fetching but also good in her role – while Simon Andreu is pretty entertaining in an over the top way as the warden in charge. So yeah, fine, while this may be the weakest of the three Re-Animator movies, it’s still plenty entertaining and a good bit of fun.


    Beyond Re-Animator comes to Blu-ray from Lionsgate’s Vestron Video line on a 50GB disc (with the feature taking up just a hair under 24GBs of space) framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Last month the movie received its high definition debut from Umbrella Entertainment where it was paired with Bride Of Re-Animator (reviewed here). The transfer for Beyond on that release left a lot of room for improvement. It was soft and waxy, heavily DNR’d and likely taken from an older master. Vestron’s release was touted as being ‘restored and remastered’ in press materials and indeed it does look a lot better than the transfer that Umbrella used. There’s no evidence of DNR here at all, and both detail and clarity are much stronger. There are some scenes that still look a bit soft, likely due to how the picture was shot, but this is a solid looking picture. The movie isn’t super colorful in that most of it takes place inside a prison but color reproduction is quite nice, that familiar green glow of the re-agent really popping quite nicely. Black levels are good and while you might spot a minor compression artifact here and there, the image is quite clean and free of any serious print damage.

    The only audio option is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Subtitles are offered up in English SDH and Spanish. No complaints here – the audio is just fine. Dialogue is plenty easy to understand and follow and the levels are balanced well. There are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion and the score sounds quite good. Surround activity isn’t constant but you’ll definitely notice the rear channels kicking in during the more action intensive scenes that take place in the film. All in all, a fine mix.

    This Blu-ray release ports over the audio commentary with director Brian Yuzna that was included on older releases and on the Umbrella Blu-ray. Yuzna once again proves to be a fairly lively commentator. He discusses Combs role in a fair bit of detail and the pressures of following up the successful first two films in the series. Lots of talk about the effects work, reuniting with Combs again and what it was like shooting in Europe. The disc also includes isolated score selections that’s cut into an audio interview with the film’s score composer, Xavier Capellas, moderated by Red Shirt Pictures’ Michael Felsher, recorded over Skype. The interview starts with a talk about Capellas’ background, his training and how he got into creating music as a career. He then talks about getting the opportunity to score his first feature in 1989 and how things took off from then. He also talks about composers that inspired him, the differences between working with electronic scores versus orchestral scores, how and why he incorporated some of Richard Band’s work into his own score, working with Brian Yuzna and quite a bit more. The interview portion of this runs about twenty-five minutes, after that it switches over to the isolated score.

    From there, we get a few exclusive featurettes starting with Beyond & Back, a nineteen-minute interview with Brian Yuzna. This touches on some of the same ground as the commentary but also features some content not covered there. Yuzna talks about the intent to create more Re-Animator stories, the difficulties of dealing with financiers and how that determines the kind of movie you get to make, his determination to not see the franchise get ground into the dirt the way properties like The Howling did, where they pulled different story ideas from, how the film ties into Bride, and how the time that had passed between this film and the last film led to the decision to put West in prison. He then talks about shooting the picture in Spain and how that was tricky for some of the American participants involved in the production, collaborating with Combs and how important that was to the movie, the prison location that was used, the effects featured in the picture and more. Yuzna always comes across as a nice guy and that’s the case here in this piece. It’s an interesting interview, worth checking out, that covers a fair bit of ground – he even covers some of the science behind the story!

    Up next is Death Row Sideshow, an interview with leading man Jeffrey Combs that runs just over twenty-minutes in length. He starts by talking about the popularity of the series and the effect that it has had on his career and the enduring appeal of Herbert West. He then talks about dealing with the Spanish production company, shooting in Europe, the ‘hideous’ prison where most of the movie was shot, working with some of the Spanish actors on the shoot, requirements inflicted on the production by the Spanish government that was subsidizing the production, the difficulties of communicating with the crew when there’s a language barrier, how he got along with his Irish co-star Jason Barry and with Elsa Pataky as well as the rest of the Spanish cast, the importance of ‘sandwich time’ on the set, the disappointing distribution that the film got after it was finished and more – including the possibility of a fourth film. Combs is pretty honest here about what works and what doesn’t, seeming to have some mixed emotions about the movie in a lot of ways – but it’s an interesting piece and one absolutely worth checking out for fans of the film or its leading man.

    From there, check out Six Shots By Midnight, a sixteen-minute interview with S. T. Joshi, the man who wrote I Am Providence: The Life And Times Of H.P. Lovecraft. He speaks about Lovecraft’s fascination, in terms of fiction, that death might not be the end. From there he talks about the character of Herbert West and his various attempts to resurrect the dead, Lovecraft’s love of science and chemistry at a young age, Lovecraft’s influences early in his career and how he wound up writing horror stories for a humor publication called Home Brew, what inspired Miskatonic University, the birth of the Herbert West character and then the importance of having the original Re-Animator film come out in terms of putting the writer on the map in the pantheons of pop culture. He then talks about the film’s take on the source material, Combs’ performance, the author’s dislike of sexual innuendos in horror, Stuart Gordon’s ability to capture the tone of the source and the merits of the two sequels and how the Lovecraftian influence starts to wane a bit as West’s cinematic journeys continue. Interesting stuff – this isn’t always focused on the movie(s), but that’s okay, it does a nice job of giving viewers some welcome (and important) background information on the man and the writing that he did that wound up inspiring all of this in the first place.

    Vestron also throws in a vintage EPK featurette that clocks in at seventeen-minutes and is made up of interviews with Yuzna, Pataky (who speaks in unsubtitled Spanish), Combs, Barry, Andreu (who also speaks in unsubtitled Spanish) and a few others as well as some interesting behind the scenes footage. There are also quite a few clips from the movie featured here too, though they’re in Spanish.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a still gallery, a production art gallery showcasing the work of illustrator Richard Raaphorst, a five-minute promo video called Dr. Re-Animator: Move Your Dead Bones and the film’s original trailer. Like all Vestron releases so far in the history of the line, this one also comes packaged with a nice spine-numbered slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Beyond Re-Animator doesn’t resonate the way that the original did but it’s still a fun entry in the misadventures of Herbert West. Combs is, as you’d expect, excellent in the lead role and the effects, particularly in the last third of the film, are as creative as they are ridiculously gory. Vestron’s Blu-ray release presents the film in very nice shape and with an impressive selection of supplemental features, many of which are exclusive to this release. If you’re a fan of the series, you already know you need this.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!