Brian Yuzna’s “Bride of Re-Animator”: A gory splatterfest with bloody body parts to spare

By on October 27, 2017

If you’re looking for an awesome double-feature of horror titles to watch this Halloween weekend, we can’t think of a scarier pairing than Brian Yuzna’s directorial debut, Society, and his second film, 1990’s H.P. Lovecraft’s Bride of Re-Animator, with its appropriately clever tagline: “Date. Mate. Re-Animate.”

You’ll find both streaming in our newly-added selection of Horror Month movies over on Night Flight Plus!

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As was always the plan, Yuzna was already in production on Bride of Re-Animator — the sequel to Stuart Gordon’s hit 1985 horror-comedy Re-Animator — when Society began getting its first critical reviews, which initially weren’t all that great, even though European audiences loved the film immediately (as we told you in this previous blog post, Society ended up being delayed for a few years before getting theatrical distribution in the U.S., well after Bride was released).

Yuzna paired up once again with Rick Fry and Woody Keith, who had written the screenplay for Society, which picks up the story of Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and his sidekick protégé Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) eight months after the first film’s “Miskatonic Massacre.”

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The storyline actually begins in war-torn Peru, where they are both volunteering as medics, experimenting on dead soldiers while the country is embroiled in a bloody civil war.

When their tent is attacked, they return to the U.S., and somehow get their old doctor jobs again at Miskatonic Medical Hospital in Arkham, Massachusetts, where they once begin experimenting with dead body parts in their basement lab.

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West and Cain continue trying to perfect the power of West’s glowing chartreuse serum of life (we’ve read somewhere that Yuzna cracked open a lot of glo-sticks in order to obtain the stuff).

West is still interested in re-animating dead tissue and organs, but now he’s trying to take his crazy-brained theories one step further.

“This is no longer about re-animating the dead,” he says. “This is about creating new life!”

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Read more about Brian Yuzna’s Bride of Re-Animator below.

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West eventually promises loyal pal Dr. Dan that he will try his best to restore the man’s fiancée, Megan Halsey (she was originally played by Barbara Crampton, but her agent told her this film’s part was too small).

Meanwhile, Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart) is using some of West’s serum of life to revive dead animals — including a great scene involving a bat — and he eventually begins experimenting on Dr. Hill’s disembodied head (David Gale, who was also in Savage Weekend, which we told you about here).

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There’s additional plotlines we’ll let you discover for yourself, including one involving gorgeous Italian journalist Francesca Danelli (Fabiana Udenio, seen above, who you may remember from Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery and other ’80s movies), and another involving a snoopy police inspector, Lieutenant Leslie Chapham (Claude Earl Jones), who is investigating the Miskatonic Massacre.

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As you might expect, this sequel’s title harkens back to another horror classic, James Whale’s 1935 creature feature Bride of Frankenstein.

The plot itself is actually another patch on Gordon’s film’s adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft novella Herbert West, Re-Animator, although, admittedly, quite a few liberties were taken by Yuzna’s re-imagining of the original story, just as they had been with the first film’s screenplay, written by Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris and Stuart Gordon.

Originally, Gordon had planned for Re-Animator to be a staged theatrical production (he’d spent about a decade in Chicago doing experimental theater by that point), and, later, it was to be a half-hour TV series, before the pilot script was revised and turned into a low-budget feature for Charles Band‘s Empire Pictures.

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Re-Animator was shot in Hollywood on an estimated budget of $900,000, and Yuzna had been a very hands-on producer on that project.

He developed such an in-depth understanding for the material, in fact, which nicely dovetailed with some of his own interests in horror and comedy, that he obtained the rights for a sequel, even though other movies, like Frank Henenlotter’s fun Frankenhooker (1990), also cover pretty much the same territory, where dead girls are brought to life again with body parts that had belonged to once living, now dead hookers.

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Later — once Re-Animator proved to be a boffo box-office success, earning more than $2 million — Yuzna used the fact that he owned the sequel rights to negotiate a two-picture deal with the L.A. based indie film company Wild Street Pictures, who were making low-budget horror features with Japanese financing.

They were definitely interested in a Re-Animator sequel and willing to take a chance on Yuzna directing Society in order to get to also distribute his film Bride of Re-Animator.

The makeup, prosthetics and stop-motion camera effects — all pre-CGI methods — were created here by no less than six special effects companies, including Japanese SFX master Screaming Mad George, who had worked on Society.

Here, he brings life to all kinds of wonderfully gruesome cadavers and decapitated heads.

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Let’s also pause to give a special shout-out to the Bride herself (Kathleen Kimont), who presents her own incredible still-beating and quite bloody heart in one memorable scene.

Bride of Re-Animator screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September 1990, and was given wider theatrical distribution in February of ’91.

Yuzna shows a deft hand here for direction, and as both producer and director, he’s continued to stick with the horror genre, although just like Society and Bride of Re-Animator most of his other films also contain elements of black comedy and fantasy, as well as gross-out makeup and characteristically grotesque SFX.

Why not make a Halloween-weekend double-feature out of Brian Yuzna’s first two features, Society and Bride of Re-Animator, which are both streaming over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.