Beyond Re-Animator (December 30/03)
Unlike the majority of horror franchises, the Re-Animator series has managed to stay fairly true to the style and tone established by the original. Director Brian Yuzna and screenwriter Jose Manuel Gomez know exactly what kind of film they're making here, and keep their tongues firmly in cheek throughout.
Jeffrey Combs returns as Dr. Herbert West, the mad scientist who invented a potion that brought the recently deceased back to life. Though he's been stuck in prison for the last 13 years, he's still performing his experiments - albeit on a much smaller scale (he's now limited to electrocuting rats and other stray rodents). His chance to resume his life resuscitating research arrives in the form of an eager young doctor named Howard (Jason Barry). But Howard's got his own motives, as he witnessed the death of his sister at the hands of one of Herbert's maniacal victims.
There's no denying that Beyond Re-Animator is incredibly silly and over-the-top, but it can also be tremendously entertaining at times - particularly in the last half hour, which is certainly the highlight of the film. Yuzna is clearly having a lot of fun with this admittedly absurd material, and makes the smart decision of having his actors play things straight. Combs, god bless him, imbues his dialogue with a conviction that's entirely believable; though Dr. West is clearly insane, Combs turns the character into more than just a caricature of a mad scientist. Sadly, the rest of the performers aren't quite up to his level - with the majority of them apparently unable to speak English properly, as their voices have obviously been dubbed.
But that's not really a problem with a movie like this. Though Yuzna's never quite able to match the promise of the opening sequence (which finds a man, sans jaw, attacking Howard's sister), he does a nice job of keeping the film's pace even by throwing in a gore sequence every 15 minutes or so. He accelerates that timetable with the prison riot at the end, which features one outrageous sight after another (my favorite: the inmate who attacks Dr. West, even though he's missing his lower body). Oh, and be sure to stick around through the credits, otherwise you'll miss what has to be the finest penis/mutated rat fight ever committed to celluloid.