Retro Rewatch: Bride of Re-Animator – 1990


Retro Rewatch is an ongoing editorial that takes a look into certain films, conventions, crazes, and characters of the horror genre years after their heyday. It is an effort to try and put the magnifying glass up to the horror world with the much needed luxuries of time and perspective applied in order to fully understand the impact and social significance of these projects/themes/ideas (if any). So for this installment of Retro Rewatch, I give you an underappreciated sequel with Bride of Re-animator.

When I was working on a previous editorial called 5 WTF Horror Movie Moments, I got to thinking about the movie Re-Animator (which happens seriously, like 5 times a DAY).  Through the various stupid trivia and ridiculously useless facts that often run through my head, I remembered that not only did Re-animator have a sequel, but it had two sequels.  I knew that I had seen both of them (and in fact, as it turns out, I owned both of them) but I couldn’t remember a single thing at all about either of them.  So, I sat down to watch Bride of Re-Animator for the first time in a few years and I felt compelled to write about it and explore a few things. 

We meet up again with our favorite doctor in the history of horror movies, Dr. Herbert West (Jeffery Combs) and his friend and partner Dr. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) who are now both working as field surgeons during a Peruvian civil war.  After their tent gets stormed by the enemy, they somehow miraculously make it out and decide to go back to Arkham Massachusetts to continue their work.  For some reason, after the "Miskatonic Massacre", both doctors were still allowed to practice medicine and were apparently cleared of any and all charges so… if you are getting the feeling that there was no intention of ever making a sequel after the first film, then you aren’t alone there buddy since this doesn’t make much sense at all.  Welp… who am I to judge?  Then the story reverts to West and Cain continuting their research in order to make another medical breakthrough in creating a human being out of dead flesh.

Obviously, the film is in its own special way, an ode to the original Bride of Frankenstein (Dir: James Whale – 1935).  However the main difference isn’t the end result, it’s the motivation for creating the monster in the first place.  Before I get to that, I think it’s kind of a fun fact to note that in the end of Re-Animator, it was pretty much assumed that Dr. West was dead, and most likely so was Dr. Cain but yet in the sequel, they are perfectly fine and apparently completely unfazed by the first films events.  At the end of the original Frankenstein, its assumed that both the monster and Dr. Frankenstein have both been killed and gone down in flames, but yet they are both fine at the beginning of the sequel.  Not sure if that was intentional or not, but I find it interesting.  So back to the whole motivation thing I was talking about (I’m a horrible writer sometimes).

In Bride of Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein, who is even madder then he was last movie has no intention of making another monster and he simply wants to lead a peaceful life with his wife.  However, an old colleague, the eviler (more evil?) Dr. Pretorius blackmails Dr. Frankenstein and makes him create a bride for the monster.  It goes completely against his will, but nevertheless he does it to save his wife.  It adds a whole other layer of disposition to the narrative because we are spectators to a story about a man who is basically in a no win situation and sacrifices his safety, his morality, and his set of ethics in order to save someone he loves.  In Bride of Re-animator however, West and Cain create their abomination simply because they can.  Well, I suppose that they were doing everything in the name of "science" to ultimately cure "death", but it becomes very apparent that while both Cain and West have the same goal, their reasons are a bit different.

Cain helps create the lady made of previous body parts because he wants to hold on to the past.  You see, in order to coax him into doing this at all, Dr. West retrieves the heart of Megan, who was Dr. Cain’s girlfriend in the first film, and the one who almost got head from a severed head.  Right, so they use her physical heart as a starting point and go from there.  However it isn’t until Dr. West and Dr. Cain are successful when West’s god complex gets thrown out into the open and he says what we all suspected:

"Blasphemy? Before what? God? A God repulsed by the miserable humanity He created in His own image? I will not be shackled by the failures of your God. The only blasphemy is to wallow in insignificance. I have taken refuse of your God's failures and I have triumphed. There! THERE is my creation! "

All of this is of course said by a screaming Dr. West in a beautiful and crazy monolog and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Dr. Cain may have some of the same feelings, but for the most part he is yearning for a chance to reconcile his past, and when the monster actually comes to life, he is shocked to see it actually happen, like as if he has a shot at a normal life again, then of course everything goes to hell.

It may sound as if I am talking down on the movie, but in actuality, I think that it is definitely worth watching, and even revisiting.  There are deeper layers of meaning here which although of course the entire story borrows from the Bride of Frankenstein, different characters are very adversely motivated and given depth.  Also it doesn’t hurt that due to copious amounts of gore and other monster abominations in the movie which makes this a perfect fit for getting you into the Halloween mood with an eerie film that you will have a ton of fun watching.

Is it a cult classic, a fitting analysis, or complete forgettable?:   I wish it was a cult classic, and I may have to start a campaign to get it so.  It definitely isn’t completely forgettable despite my previous thoughts and due to its depth, I’m going with a fitting analysis.  I know, I didn’t see that coming either.

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