Release Date(s)2003 (July 24, 2018)
Studio(s)Lionsgate Entertainment (Vestron Video Collector’s Series)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
Beyond Re-Animator is the third entry in the Re-Animator series from 2003. Directed by Brian Yuzna, who produced the original film and also directed Bride of Re-Animator, the film continues the misadventures of Dr. Herbert West, played by Jeffrey Combs, a mad scientist who develops a way of bringing dead tissue back to life, but with monstrously chaotic results. Taking place in a prison after West is locked away for his crimes, it isn’t long before he’s up to his old experimental tricks again.
Beyond is a bit more unusual than its predecessor by comparison. Having a sequel that takes place so many years later can normally spell disaster. But in this case, it seems that Yuzna had a few more ideas he wanted to explore. Both Dr. Cain and Dr. Hill are now gone from the story altogether, and now we’re stuck with a new doctor in new surroundings. As per usual, Screaming Mad George’s gore effects and make-up appliances are spectacular, but it just isn’t enough. There are parts of the film that are great, and some that are not so great. The performances and the story are both lackluster at best. Basically, anybody who isn’t Jeffrey Combs is questionable, despite having a batch of fresh faces due to where the film was shot, which was Spain. However, Jason Barry is no Bruce Abbott and Elsa Pataky is no Barbara Crampton.
Just judging it based upon its own merits, Beyond Re-Animator features much of the great, over-the-top, and outrageous material you would expect from the Re-Animator series, but it’s ultimately dwindling returns. It feels its length, particularly during subplots involving some of the other prisoners. And yet somehow, there’s something oddly comforting about the series staying within the grasp of its immediate family, meaning Combs and Yuzna. I’ll also take many of the laugh-inducing moments of both of these films, however dull the elements surrounding them may be at times, over many of the more serious and soulless horror films of today. Where else am I going to see a severed, re-animated penis shadowboxing with a rat? Nowhere, that’s where.
For Vestron Video’s U.S. Blu-ray debut of Beyond Re-Animator, the film is presented, as are all of their titles, “Digitally Restored”. Comparing this transfer to the one from the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray release that I recently reviewed, there are clear differences; not just in motion, but also when you look at screengrabs side by side. This is no slight at a company like Umbrella either, which is based out of Australia. A company like that can’t readily access original camera negatives the way U.S. companies can and have to do the best with what they’re given. That said, Vestron’s release is superior in nearly every way. Their presentation carries more obvious grain (fine though it may be) and more potent textures, meaning that it hasn’t been excessively scrubbed clean. Infrequent but tiny specks can also be seen from time to time as well. But the three biggest overall differences in quality are color, black levels, and framing. Hues are much richer, even within the gray and blue walls of the penitentiary, while skin tones are much more evenly natural. Blacks are also deep without any apparent crush, revealing more detail in the shadows. Framing is also more precise. In the Umbrella release, there are certain moments, particularly in the latter half of the film, where shots were framed too high, revealing more of the sets, as well as an occasional boom mic. That has all been addressed and fixed. Everything also appears brighter and crisper as well. I honestly didn’t think the presentation of this film could look much better, but I’m happy to report that I was wrong.
As for the audio, an English 5.1 DTS-HD audio track is available with optional subtitles in both English SDH and Spanish to accompany it. It appears to be the same audio track as the one on Umbrella’s release as I didn’t notice any obvious differences in quality. It’s an above-average surround track, especially for a low budget film, but there aren’t many instances of speaker to speaker movement. Ambient activity, as well as score, does tend to hover towards the rear while dialogue and other sound effects fill up the front. There are also no dropouts or other instances of damage leftover.
The extras for this release include an older audio commentary with director Brian Yuzna; a set of new isolated score selections and an audio interview with composer Xavier Capellas, moderated by Michael Felsher; Beyond and Back with Brian Yuzna, a new 19-minute interview with the director in which he discusses the making of the film, as well as his plans for a future entry in the series; Death Row Sideshow with Jeffrey Combs, a new 20-minute interview in which he discusses his work on the film, as well as what it was like to film in Spain; Six Shots by Midnight, a new 16-minute interview with author S.T. Joshi in which he discusses H.P. Lovecraft; an animated production art gallery containing the work of illustrator Richard Raaphorst (much of it never utilized); an animated still gallery of behind-the-scenes photos, a set of storyboards, and promotional images; a 17-minute vintage EPK featurette with includes interviews with various crew and actors, many of whom speak in their native tongue with subtitles; the Dr. Re-Animator “Move Your Dead Bones” music video; the U.S. theatrical trailer; and the international trailer. Not included from the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray is 18 minutes of additional interview footage with Brian Yuzna and actors Santiago Segura, Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Simon Andreu, and Elsa Pataky (sourced from the same footage used for the vintage EPK featurette), as well as 12 1/2 minutes of behind the scenes B-roll footage. Also missing is the 50-minute All in the Head: Brian Yuzna on the Re-Animator Chronicles documentary from the Arrow Video DVD release and a Press Conference Presentation of the film from another Region 2 DVD release.
While Beyond Re-Animator excels when it comes to its effects, its story just isn’t as interesting the second time around, making the more memorable moments less memorable by comparison to what has come before. Regardless, it’s a film that’s been languishing for quite some time in standard definition, and thanks to Vestron Video and Red Shirt Pictures, all has been set right. Now there’s an excellent state-side Blu-ray release of the film with a top notch transfer and a terrific set of extras. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons