Beyond Re-Animator

brbigI’m very impressed with Jeffery Combs and how young he’s looks. Having now watched the Re-Animator trilogy, a series that spans eight-teen years, you can hardly tell that much time has passed. I enjoyed this film immensely, mostly due to them scrapping Cain in favor of a new Doctor. With Cain turning states evidence against West being just casually mentioned. Also this is the only Re-Animator not filmed in the U.S. This time around, they opted to shoot entirely in Spain. Making this a foreign film. I don’t feel bad calling this my favorite of the Re-Animator series, with Bride being a close second place. I feel out-of-place in this regard, as most people seem to enjoy the original, well beyond the series later installments. But I feel that these films have gotten better. Not so much with effects, in which I feel that Bride still takes the cake. But in the area of acting, sound and story, this one is the best of the lot.

This time around the film opens with a pair of young boys camping in one of their backyards, while being babysat by an older sister. Things are going fine when they hear a noise that draws them to the house, just in time to witness a re-animated corpse kill the sister before the police arrive and “kill” the creature. Outside the boy, Howard Phillips who’s sister was killed witness the police arrest Dr. Herbert West (Jeffery Combs) being loaded into a cop car. As the cops take him away, Howard finds a syringe containing West’s Re-Animation serum. The film advances to thirteen years later, with Howard Phillips (Jason Barry)  who has recently graduated from medical school arriving at his first day as head doctor at West’s prison. West has spent his years incarcerated furthering his experiments, this time using rats. Through his experiments he has discovered NPE, Nano-Plastic Energy. Which can be extracted from the brain via electrocution, killing the subject. Phillips has West assigned as his assistant and tells him that wish to help West continue his work. West reluctantly agrees after Phillips returns his reagent. While the two works on West experiments, Phillips falls for  Laura Olney (Elsa Pataky). A journalist that is covering a story at the prison, who is also being pursed albeit unwanted by the prisons Warden Brando (Simon Andreu). Due to his morality Phillips is unwilling to let West see is work all the way through to completion. That is until the Warden kills Olney in a jealous rage and covering it up. Phillips heart-broken, is easily manipulated by West and the pair re-animator her. Than inject her with NPE that they obtain by killing the Warden (after learning that he murder Olney). She returns to life and seems normal… ish. At least first before her body becomes a battle field, between her and Brando’s personalities, his being transferred with NPE. This all taking place during a prison riot, which West tries to take advantage of. Re-animating Warden Brando and infusing him with NPE of a rat. Then leaving him tied up for the rioters to find. Brando of course escapes and knocks West unconscious, then stealing his reagent. Things grow worse when the prison becomes locked down, with Olney still trapped inside and Brando re-animating dead prisoners so that their suffering can be eternal…

What I think I enjoyed most about this film was the change in setting. The creepy house by the graveyard, while a fun backdrop always felt more that little cliche to me. So using a prison as the backdrop was a stroke of genius. The feeling of being locked in adds to the ambiance in a way I don’t think they would have achieved by other means and is a large part of what makes this film work.

I do have some issues with the character of Doctor Phillips, but it’s the same issue that I had with Doctor Cain in the previous installments. In that he feels all over the place. Phillips is a man who dedicated the last thirteen years of his life to getting close to West to enable him to continue his research. So, I doubt he would be so squeamish. But I guess someone had to the moral one to play off West’s obsession. I would have liked to see a doctor paired with West that matched both his madness and his drive to see West’s research to completion.

My only other gripe is again a forced love interest. I feel like there were a lot of missed opportunities with this character. Also it bugs me a little that West never gets a love interest in these films. Giving him something beyond his obsession would have done great things for fleshing him out as a more rounded character. Even if the inflation only went one way, with West being unwilling to deviate from his projected course, even for love.

Final thoughts, again this is my favorite in the series. That said, it still has it’s share of flaws. As it does feel like a simple rehashing of the first film at times and West remaining somewhat underdeveloped. In my opinion at least. All the supporting characters, mostly the prisoners are fun and memorable. So more for their deaths than anything else. But these even seem inconstant with a handful retaining their personalities post re-animation. Something out of line with the internal mythos of the series, as they should come back as mindless and violent, since none of them are hit with NPE. That said it’s still an enjoyable watch and if you’re a fan of the series up till this point, I’m fairly positive you’ll enjoy this installment too. 9/10

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