Don’t ask me why I was surprised. Actually strike that, surprised is too strong a word. Don’t ask me why I was mildly perturbed that Beyond The Reanimator kind of sucked. It is after all a decades late sequel to the cult hit (Even if you factor in Bride Of The Reanimator this baby is still coming down the pike thirteen years after the fact) that didn’t much demand a sequel in the first place, let alone two. Chalk up the absence of Stuart Gordon and we are pretty far into “Have no one to blame but myself” territory.
I guess I just didn’t expect a Reanimator movie to be so dreary, so lifeless (Rimshot). Directed by Brian “Overrated” Yunza (Have you ever actually SEEN Society? It’s fucking boring. The very definition of a one scene wonder.) with production values that scream “European tax shelter.” Beyond The Reanimator is a plain dispirited movie. Like going to see a legendary rock band at the midstate fair, only now the bassist has an artificial leg, the drummer is drunk, and the lead Singer is a replacement from a cover band after the real guy hung himself in his garage seven years ago.
Beyond The Reanimator starts in suburbia where some Herbert West instigated mayhem goes down. A child survives the attacks and becomes obsessed with West, who he saw reanimate the dead. West is arrested and sent to prison. The child grows up, goes to med school and then gets a job at the prison, in order to help West continue his research. Things go about as well as you would expect.
If there’s one bright spot in the whole mess its Jeffery Combs, who is clearly relishing the chance to play his signature character again. He plays West, as older, wiser, and if no less single minded than at least a great deal more mellow. It’s a progression of the character and an interesting one. Unfortunately Combs is just about the only one who did put any thought into it and he can’t save the movie because he’s kept off screen for most of it, shunted aside for the bland younger cast.
Mayhem does eventually break out at the prison, as the tension between West, The Young Doctor, and a sadistic prison warden (are there any other sort in movies?) heats up. But it feels strangely perfunctory. When Stuart Gordon made a severed head perform a terrible pun it felt like a work of transgressive, lunatic imagination. When Brian Yunza shows a close up of a severed penis, it looks like well a severed penis. Which can only hold so much interest (the fact that said penis is reanimated and fights a rat in the closing credits does not help as much as you think it might). It’s not that the novelty wears off, there’s just no novelty in the first place.
So yeah, don’t waste your time with Beyond The Reanimator, even if you’re just DVRing it off IFC wondering “What have I got to lose?” A good non refundable hour and a half of your time is the answer. You can find something better to do with it. Trust me it shan’t be hard.