Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media

Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
Lion's Gate Films | Review by Dan Taylor

Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West in BEYOND RE-ANIMATORHerbert West must have more lives than the zombies he's reanimated throughout his illustrious career.

Though he seemingly perished at the end of the first two movies in the series (the classic RE-ANIMATOR and 1990's BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR), West is back in fine form in this gore-filled, old school horror extravaganza from director Brian Yuzna.

After an opening sequence experiment-gone-awry lands West (played, of course, by Jeffrey Combs) behind the walls of Arkham Penetentiary, the flick flashes forward 13 years. West, exchanging his trademark shirt and tie for denim prison garb, lands a job working for the facility's new doctor. Seems that young doctor Howard Philips (Jason Barry) has followed West's career and wants to work with the legend.

Typically, this is the kind of working relationship that has tended to go very, very wrong in Herbert's past, and BEYOND doesn't fail to deliver. Not surprisingly, the research gets quickly out of hand, landing a reanimated zombie (Nico Baixas who looks like Michael Berryman) in the prison's dank hole and West and Howard under the watchful eye of the prison's sleazy and sadistic warden (Simon Andreu). If possible, things actually get worse and the rest of the flick is filled with the reanimated people, rodents, body parts, and criminals one would expect from the latest installment in the RE-ANIMATOR series.

As a huge fan of Stuart Gordon's original – it's easily my favorite flick of all-time – I was worried about the intentions behind BEYOND. The legend of RE-ANIMATOR has grown over the years, a legend that was only helped by mentions in flicks like the Academy Award winning AMERICAN BEAUTY. And while I enjoyed Yuzna's BRIDE, much of his other work (SOCIETY, THE DENTIST, PROGENY) has left me cold.

Like-minded fans of the original flick can rest assured that with BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, Yuzna's heart is in the right place and his tongue – and those of the whole cast – is planted firmly in his cheek. Though played a bit more broadly than the original, the start-to-finish gallows humor cleverly plays off the wall-to-wall gore that packs the flick's running time.

But once again, it's Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West who gives the movie its gleefully sinister personality. Adding yet another great performance to his jam-packed genre filmography, Combs consistently portrays West as a mad scientist who really thinks that he's doing something good. If things don't work out the way he thought, well it was just "a theory." (In addition to this trio of flicks the actor has appeared in Gordon's FROM BEYOND and CASTLE FREAK, Peter Jackson's THE FRIGHTENERS, CELLAR DWELLER, DEAD MAN WALKING, CONTAGION, CYCLONE and many more.)

Yuzna also deserves credit for not straying too far from the original's mindset and ably following up Gordon's recent DAGON, also from his Spain-based Fantastic Factory. The studio's imprint is quickly becoming one worth keeping an eye on like the original days of Charles Band's Empire.

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