Return of the Living Dead 3


Viewed – 01 September 2017  Blu-ray

In the nineties I remember really loving this movie and watched it on a rental double bill with Stephen King adaptation The Dark Half (I really need to see that again also).  So when I heard this was finally getting not just a Blu-ray release but was also digitally re-mastered and fully restored with a plethora of extras – I couldn’t resist.  Telling a sort-of Romeo & Juliet story of a young teenage kid who’s trashy girlfriend is killed following a motorcycle accident. Said kid then decides to bring girlfriend back to life using his father’s shady military experiments on the recently deceased via a mysterious chemical known as Trioxin.

ROTLD3

The poster art of this movie was instantly iconic, what with sexy star Melinda Clarke posing as some sort of sadomasochistic zombie hottie.  It may not be all that clever and is mostly low budget fair but for some impressive practical effects work that still look good to this day (bar occasional dodgy puppetry zombie action).  Clark’s performance, although nothing all that layered is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, really bringing home the pain and suffering of her undead cravings whilst resorting to inflicting pain on herself to stop from eating her boyfriend (!).  It’s a fun concept and an entertaining ride, with director Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator, Society) pulling out all the tricks to deliver lots of gory fun.

I suppose with many gorier, nastier movies since, this one’s impact has been considerably diluted and is much more pop-corn schlock than ‘full on horror’.  Also, the idea of Clark’s Julie fighting her desires to eat brains isn’t as explored as it should have been, with her gradual transformation particularly rushed.  Yet this has it where it counts; great practical effects, lots of blood & gore and plenty of energy, which might not make it the classic I remember it as – but still left me grinning like the twenty something former me.

The Blu-ray from Lionsgate as part of their Vestron Video Collector’s Series is impressive stuff.  The soundtrack may only be in the original 2.0 stereo but has clear dialogue and plenty of atmosphere.  For a mostly low-budget movie where clearly all the money was spent on the make up effects, the movie has some nice detail, retains clarity and depth despite mostly night-set scenes and facial detail is decent.  Add to this extras that consist of two worthwhile commentaries, interviews and stills galleries.  Great treatment for what may be a cult favourite but doesn’t get talked about all that much..

Verdict:

(the movie) 3 / 5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Bride of Re-Animator


Viewed – 16 April 2016  Blu-ray

Unrated version

MSDBROF EC057Yes I got myself both movies this weekened and thought I’d give them a critical look as they’ve both had the lavish restoration treatment.  However I recall only ever seeing this sequel once and couldn’t remember much about it.  Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and his assistant, now Doctor Dan Caine (Bruce Abbott) return from a medical assignment in some war torn part of the world and find themselves piecing together body parts to create a woman, ala Bride of Frankenstein.  If ever parallels between the two concepts were just, then they are ever more so here.  With a new love interest on the scene, Dan feels reluctant to continue helping West who grows increasingly unhinged … yet finds himself pulled back when West comes up with the idea of using Dan’s former girlfriend Meg’s heart in the new body.

Like the movie that proceeded it, its decidedly low budget and a bit silly, but unlike that movie ramps up the freak-o-metre with some bizarre creations (a finger spider, a dog with a human arm), but the dark sense of humour is mostly missing.  Here it seems we have several plot threads going on at the same time with not enough to them to really get one’s teeth into.  We have the unfathomable return of ‘talking-head’ Dr Hill, a vengeful Police Detective investigating the aftermath of the last movie, and at the same time the gradual creation of the Bride.  It feels unfocused and not helped by a plodding pace and amateurish acting from anyone not in the previous movie.  Combs gives it his all and still makes for a memorable mad scientist, whilst Abbott is a bit buffed up and comes across all smouldering, which doesn’t exactly suit the character.  Gore hounds will be both rejoicing and disappointed by the all too brief effects (especially the wonderfully freaky Bride) but there’s still fun to be had here.  It’s just overall the movie fails to build on or capture the perverse energy that made Re-Animator such a classic in the first place.

Bride Limited Edition

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is impressive, with the limited edition I picked up really wowing – housing two cuts of the movie, a DVD version and a graphic novel along with a detailed booklet.  On an image front we get a clean and mostly detailed picture that really shows off the movie’s often garish colour palette.  Sound-wise it’s serviceable with just a stereo channel on offer, but it does the job.  The score which was a highlight in the last movie seemed dialled back however and not as enjoyable this time.

Extras consist of three audio commentaries, one from director Brian Yuzna, another with cast and crew, and a final one with stars Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott.  Add to this detailed featurettes and behind the scenes footage detailing the making of and the special effects, and … considering the movie itself is fairly forgettable, this is amazing treatment if a little unwarranted.  I think collectors will get more out of the extras here than the movie, so excuse me whilst I dive into them to make up for my disappointment.

Verdict:

(the movie)  2.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Re-Animator


Viewed – 16 April 2016  Blu-ray

Unrated version

Re-Animator Blu-rayHalf the reason I started this blog many years ago was to write about some of my favourite genre movies, this being one of them.  Based on a series of 1930’s horror tales by renowned writer H.P. Lovecraft and brought to the screen by a collaboration between Stuart Gordon (Castle Freak) and Brian Yuzna (Society) … this remains a classic.

Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is a brilliant if somewhat deranged medical student who sneers at the teachings of respected Doctor Hill (David Gale) whose theories on brain function he feels are out-dated.  It’s not long however that we discover West has ideas of his own and embroils a naive fellow student (Bruce Abbott) to help him with his experiments – to bring the dead back to life via a glowing green formula he’s invented.  Call it a modern take on Frankenstein and you’d be half way there in getting the intent of this crazy but very entertaining horror.  It’s got several stand out performances, especially the brilliant Jeffrey Combs whose every line hints at manic craziness, and beautiful genre favourite Barbara Crampton (From Beyond) as a perfect scream queen.  Yet the movie is stolen by the late David Gale as the psychotic and hypnotic Dr Carl Hill – surely one of the genres nuttiest villains.

Re-Animator

Stuart Gordon fills the movie with a dark sense of humour, decent if low budget production values and even 30 years later, excellent practical effects that still pack a punch.  The movie’s long history with the censors is easy to understand as it holds nothing back – it’s violent, gory as hell and rather sexual with that notorious ‘head giving head’ sequence.  Yet it’s the movie’s spirit that has to be applauded and you get the impression this was a riot to make both on and off screen.  Its fast, energetic, has a wonderfully-perverse atmosphere and never out stays its welcome … like all good horrors.  The story is very silly in places and some bits just don’t make sense.  Also characterisation is simplistic at best, especially with Herbert West who we learn very little about … but that’s over-analysing a movie that doesn’t want to be anything more than 90 minutes of pure gory fun.

The Blu-ray I picked up from second sight is very pleasing.  Firstly the image is in great shape and very sharp and detailed – coming off a restored 4k transfer no less.  Add to this efficient sound with a choice of the original stereo or remastered 5.1 DTS Master Audio – and it’s here where that Bernard Herman-inspired score works a treat.  Extras are exhaustive and well worth dipping into with two commentaries, one from the director and producer, another from the cast and we also get photo galleries, extended scenes and a very good documentary called ‘re-animator ressurectus’.  Also on offer are two cuts of the movie itself, the uncensored ‘unrated version’ and the slightly extended ‘integral version’.  An impressive treatment then for one of horror’s freakiest but most memorable entries.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

From Beyond


Viewed – 25 July 2008  DVD

As a long time fan of the horror genre, it shouldn’t be argued that the 80s were the golden era.  With the likes of The Thing, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Evil Dead 2 etc putting a big grin on my face, even though I must have been way too young.  I look back on such a time with huge nostalgia.  Thankfully in the advent of DVD, we now get to watch such treats in the best quality possible.

Stuart Gordon’s 1986 kind-of follow up to his fan-favourite Re-Animator has almost the same cast (with a returning Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton) and with Brian Yuzna involved again as producer.  This time instead of a mad scientist who can bring the dead back to life, we have Combs as a mad-scientist’s assistant who becomes embroiled in an experiment to open a dimension that brings with it creatures ‘from beyond’.  After a major disaster, a young female doctor (Crampton) befriends Combs and along with a tough black cop (genre regular Ken Foree), they decide to investigate what happened on that fateful night that seems to have left Combs half-crazy and accused of murder.  Soon we’re seeing creatures from god-knows-where messing with the three protagonists, freaky hallucinations and lots of messy make-up effects.  The device the mad-scientist created you see, is meant to stimulate the pineal gland, giving the persons involved a sixth sense and a killer head ache to boot.  It also stimulates them sexually, making this one of the weirdest semi-erotic movies out there.  This is further illustrated when formerly stiff-collard Crampton turns sado-masochistic vixen for one particular scene, and this reviewer’s misspent teenage yearnings came flooding back in a heart beat (ahem).  The film’s only real failing is the simplicity of it’s story and a brief running time – and yes, it’s not sophisticated or intelligent – but it is FUN.

The DVD I picked up houses a hilarious commentary track from the cast and director (clearly the DVDs selling point, for me at least), and we also get lots of behind the scenes footage, story boards, a gallery and interviews.  The film itself is in superb condition, boasting possibly the best picture it has ever had, with more than acceptable stereo sound also.  Overall, a worthy addition to anyone’s DVD collection.

Verdict:  3 /5