Beyond Re-animator (2003)

One from the re-watch pile…



Film: I have probably mentioned it before on this very site, but my very favourite movie of all time… not just horror… but my very favourite, number one favourite film of all time is the 1985 film, directed by Stuart Gordon and based on the work of H. P. Lovecraft, Re-animator.

I loved it from the first moment I saw it and it turned me on to the work of Lovecraft, and the gorgeous Barbara Crampton, and I really enjoyed the combination of zombie flick, mad scientist movie and actual drama about people’s lives.

At this time in my life I loved sequels too, but always prayed that they would never make more Re-animator films as it really felt like a cool complete movie, but Yuzna knew he was on a good thing so we have been treated to two sequels: Bride of Re-animator and this, Beyond Re-animator.

Beyond Re-animator find Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) interred in a cruel prison when a young doctor, Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) takes up residency in the infirmary.


Dr Phillips didn’t accidently end up there though, he deliberately sought out the place where West was imprisoned so he could have some questions answered about the death of his sister, at the hands of one of West’s reanimated subjects.

Of course, answers of this kind are easily found, and Phillips finds himself under the oppressive hand of an unpleasant prison warden (Simon Andreu) and an increasing amount of re-animated bodies, and that jail is not the best place to be trapped with them.

This was one of Yuzna’s Spanish created Fantastic Factory jobs, a company he was attempting to build into the new ‘Hammer’ in the late eighties and early 90s. A couple of good films came out of that, including the adaptation of the David Quinn/ Tim Vigil comic Faust and I don’t mind this so much either, even though it is pretty dumb at times.

Of course the highlight of this is Jeffrey Combs’ performance of Herbert West. He is the look down the nose, superiority complex king of mad scientists, for certain. The writing of his character lacks some of the charm of the first two outings, particularly the first, but it’s there, simmering under some below average scripting.

Unfortunately the co-stars suffer from a language barrio which makes their performances not bad, but certainly not quite ‘on point’. Don’t get me wrong, the prison characters are perfectly nuts, the warden deliciously evil and the love interest a feast for the eyes, but occasionally what they say just sits wrong.


The effects in the film are provided in part by Screaming Mad George so you know you are in for somewhat of  a treat with some of the effects.

All in all is a fun watch, but its just not great, and honestly waters down the character of Herbert West. Having said that, would I watch another one if one were made? Of course I would.

Score: **1/2


Disc: The reviewed copy of this film is the U.K.  Arrow Films DVD release, which runs for approximately 92 minutes and is present in a decent 1.78:1 anamorphic image with a matching 2.0 audio.

Score: ***

Extras: There are three extras on this DVD:

The Director’s Commentary with Brian Yuzna sees Yuzna himself talk about the film and its creation and is a fairly complete document of the film.

 All in the Head: Brian Yuzna and the Re-animator Chronicles  is an interview with Brian Yuzna about his career both with and without Herbert West. It goes for about an hour and is pretty complete.

There is also a trailer for the film.

The packaging is pretty cool though: there is an awesome The Dude Designs reversible cover (with the original poster on the other side) and a poster of the TDD cover as well. Calum Waddell has also leant his journalistic skills to a booklet which discusses the world of Lovecraft.

Score: ****


Spider Baby (1967)

One from the re watch pile…
Spider Baby (1964)

Spider Baby DVD cover

Film: Jack Hill has made some pretty damn amazing films in his career, film that people talk about with a fondness reserved normally for cats and chocolate. He wrote and directed films that are synonymous with sub-genres of film. Film like Coffey and Foxy Brown which whilst are not the first are certainly prime examples of blaxploitation, and The Big Bird House and The Big Bird Cage which again, weren’t the first Women In Prison films, but certainly nailed the definition… totally tongue-in-cheek too, I might add.

Here, though, with Spider Baby, Hill ascends any genre definition and creates a film that looks like a 1940s comedy, but acts like a… I don’t even know what to describe it as. It’s madness incarnate. It’s a quaint look at unconditional love. It’s a horrible look at genetic faults. It’s ridiculous. 

Spider Baby tells of the tragedy of the Merrye family, who suffer with a genetic affliction that is particular to their family, which it why it has the name ‘ Merrye Syndrome’. It is a disorder which effects the mind, making the victims slowly regress, after reaching a particular age, to an almost primal state.

The last three children of Titus Merrye, Elizabeth (Beverley Washburn), Virginia (Jill Banner) and Ralph (Sid Haig) are cared for by beloved chauffeur, Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.) but cousins of Titus, Peter (Quinn Redeker) and his sister Emily (Carol Ohmart) turn up at short notice with their lawyer, Mr. Schlocker (Karl Schanzer) to try and lay claim to all Titus’ property… but what they don’t know is the three children have irresistible murderous intentions, and not just bodies are hidden in the basement of their house…

Spider Baby: Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner

The performances are the best thing about this film, which also has a surprising cast: legend from Universal films like The Wolfman, Chaney Jr as the kindly old doomed chauffeur chews his dialogue like it’s the most important film he’s ever made, and his career at Universal is mentioned as a wink to the audience too. House on Haunted Hill’s Carol Ohmart is the epitome of sexy mean girl here and provides just enough eye candy to remind you she was once one of Marilyn Monroe’s contemporaries. The real surprise though is the appearance of comedy actor Mantan Moreland from King of the Zombies, as the telegram deliverer who’s fear-filled appearance could have influences Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.

Spider Baby: Lon Chaney Jr as Bruno

Speaking of Universal films, Hill’s cinematography is influenced by them but has a few quirks that give it a look that takes that familiarity and alienates it, like the entire idea of the film with its odd-family set up.

The problem with this film though is in two areas. One is how queer it is paced, and the language of film seems to be abandoned so there doesn’t seem to be any great escalated peak, but instead it just simmers. The other thing is it seems to take a serious subject of inbreeding and disease and tries to make it amusing not with a clever script but instead with crazy, comedy styled parodies of horror film tropes.

As far as the history of cinema is concerned this film deserves a look at just for the place it sits in the evolution of backwards horror, it just doesn’t sit properly as entertainment. See it once for the performances of former greats.

Score: **

Spider Baby DVD menu screen

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Dark Sky Films U.S. release on DVD. This film was presented in a pretty nice 1.66:1 black and white image with a clean 2.0 audio track. 

Score: ***

Extras: There’s a cool bunch of extras on this disc.

The Hatching of Spider Baby is a cool look at the making of the film with comments by Joe Dante, Jack Hill, Karl Schanzer, Sid Haig, Alfred Taylor, Mary Mitchel, Quinn Redeker and Beverly Washburn, and has some great recollections from the cast and crew.

Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein really speaks to me as I love my horror movie scores. This looks at the career of Stein and is a touching tribute to his work.

The Merrye House revisited sees Jack Hill return to the house used in Spider Baby to reflect on the filming there.

There’s a still gallery which is something that always annoys me, and it does so here, though some of the pics of the leading ladies are nice.

There’s an alternate title sequence and an extended scene which are nice for completion’s sake.

There is also a commentary by Hill and Haig which is informative and kind of endearing.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s quaint and amusing, but won’t be on high circulation on your Rewatch list.

Spider Baby: spider adult.

The 50 Worst Films Ever Made (2004) Review

One from the re watch pile…
The 50 Worst Films Ever Made (2004)

The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made Australian DVD cover

Film: At some point in any discussion about films, one with a bunch of friends or colleagues that enjoy cinema, will include a question ‘what are you favourite film’, or ‘who are in your top five favourite actors’ or ‘what are the five worst films you’ve ever seen’.

This DVD is a documentary… well, not a documentary’ it’s fifty short clips exploring what ‘someone’ has picked to be the 50 Worst Films Ever seen. Now there is no quantification on this disc: that is, at no point do they say that this list is made by box office (though they do mention it in several occasions), or by some questionnaire sent to a bunch of cinema experts with various university degrees .

The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made: Troll, you suck.

No, this film is the brainchild of Brandon Christopher, an artist and writer who gained experience in his twenties in making documentaries about famous people by..ahem… ‘borrowing’ footage off TV and stitching them together to make ‘legitimate’ documentaries. It would seem that he decided which are the worst 50 films, and realistically, why can’t he pick his 50 Worst?

The rest of us do in our conversations, don’t we? We just don’t have the gumption to make and release a DVD about It!

This film counts down from 50 to 1 what Christopher has decided arevthe 50 Worst, each with a voiceover poking fun at the film, and quite possible one of the worst introduction screen to each film of cinema goers throwing popcorn and food at a cinema screen… but the animation is just of the food and stuff is horrible… it’s actually number 1 of my 50 Worst animationed title screens.

The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made this film slams several films who one hundred percent deserve a kick in the nuts for just how bad, and in some cases, how I’ll received they were. I aim the sights of this comment from a grassy knoll at some of the films suggested like Ishtar, Xanadu, The Ape, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Killers from Space and The Three Stooges in Orbit… shame this film was made so early this century as I am sure crapfests like Glitter and agods of Egypt should get a bullet each too. I also find that there are some glaring misses like Manos The Hand of Fate, Troll 2 and Jaws The Revenge.

The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made: Golden Globe ‘winner’ Pia Zadora as a Martian girl!

Maybe he needs to do a follow up!

I do film have to take him to task with some of his suggestions though, as he lists Spider Baby, Galaxy of Terror and Bloodsucking Freaks amongst his 50 Worst.

Wrong, wrong WRONG!

Those three are freaking awesome!

By the way, I’m not going to reveal what is THE worst film ever made, I don’t want to spoil it for you!

Anyway, if this disc does crosses your path at a cheap price it’s probably worth a look, but I wouldn’t actively pursue it or pay more than a buck or two for it.

Score: **

The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made menu screen

Format: This Australian release DVD runs for just under 60 minutes and is presented in a shoddy 4:3 image, but that’s probably due to the fact the source material is old, not well preserved movies, and the sounds, mainly a voiceover, is presented in a good Dolby Digital 2.0 track.

Score: **

Extras: The only extra is something called ‘The Rating Scale’, which describe a bunch of ways one can tell that the movie is going to be bad, but for me, some of the things they describe, like ‘a man in a monkey suit’ are the only reasons I DID see some movies!

Score: *

WISIA: If you have a bunch of mates around who are of a similar temperament when it comes to films, this is a pretty fun casual, and drinking beer, watch. It’s a sports highlight reel for bad movie nerds.

The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made: a musical starring Merle Haggard trapped in a haunted house? Yes please!