Doctor Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) has been in prison for 13 long years, after one of his re-animated experiments escaped from the hospital morgue and killed an innocent girl. When the girl's brother Howard (Jason Barry) – now a qualified doctor himself – comes to work in the prison hospital, he asks for West to be assigned as his assistant, much to the mistrust of tyrannical Warden Brando (Simón Andreu).
Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator was one of the best (and best-loved) splatter comedies of the 1980s, notable for its blistering mix of pitch-black comedy and concentrated gore. This second sequel (Bride of Re-Animator followed in 1990) has plenty of both, and if inevitably paling in comparison to the original, still has its moments. Brian Yuzna – producer of the first and now doing very well with his Spain-based Fantastic Factory production house – directs in gaudy, exaggerated style, with little concern for taste and subtlety.
The first half of the film is basically a retread of the original story, itself based on a Lovecraft tale, with crackpot doctor West taking on a young pupil to conduct re-animation experiments on the dead with the help of his trusty green reagent. The difference here is that Howard is a far more willing protege than Bruce Abbott's Dan ever was – far from blaming West for his sister's death, he is just as obsessed with the idea of bringing the dead back to life as the older doctor. There's a sexy blonde love interest again, journalist Laura (Elsa Pataky), but while Barbara Crampton didn't have much to do but scream and get slobbered on by a severed head, Laura has her own mischievous agenda.
Of course there's only so far you can take this story, so for his climax Yuzna opts for remaking the prison sequence of Natural Born Killers, as the prisoners break out and start a low budget riot. The opportunity to have dozens of rampaging zombie criminals is sadly missed, but there are plenty of other grotesque delights (most courtesy of Yuzna-regular Screaming Mad George) – a torso-only zombie swinging through the jail like a demented baboon, a re-animated rat playing with a bitten-off dick, a spectacular exploding chest cavity, and a variety of severed limbs and spilled guts. There's a bit too much going on at the end to be honest, and Yuzna struggles to keep the momentum going – some of the scene transitions jar, and the editing could have been tighter.
Barry and Pataky are both pretty weak in their roles, but Andreu hams it up deliciously, even if his character is basically a reprise of Tommy Lee Jones' redneck warden from Natural Born Killers, even down to the buzz-saw cut and ugly 'tache. Jeffrey Combs is the film's true star though, and he still delivers his lines with the same flat, crazy-eyed intensity he did 18 years ago. "God damn you!!!" shrieks Howard at one point after realising quite how mad West is. "Religion has nothing to do with this." comes the deadpan reply. Beyond Re-Animator may be pure shlock, but it's somehow comforting to see that the good doctor hasn't yet lost his passion for the job.
American director, writer and producer specialising in low-budget, darkly funny horror. Produced the classic Re-Animator in 1985, starting a long relationship with director Stuart Gordon for whom he also produced From Beyond and Dolls. Yuzna's directing debut was the bizarre, acclaimed horror/satire Society, which he followed in 1990 with Bride of Re-Animator. Return of the Living Dead III, The Dentist and Necronomicon all mixed splatter and humour in over-the-top style, and in 2000 Yuzna relocated to Barcelona to set up his own production company, Fantastic Factory, whose output includes the Yuzna-directed Faust and Beyond Re-Animator, the gothic werewolf yarn Romasanta and Stuart Gordon's Dagon.