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Beyond Re-Animator (Blu-ray) (2003)
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Details At A Glance
Audio Commentary-with Director Brian Yuzna
Featurette-Making Of-The Making of Beyond Re-Animator
Music Video-Dr. Re-Animator: Move Your Dead Bones
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
Arriving thirteen years after its immediate predecessor, and eighteen years after the original Re-Animator, 2003's Beyond Re-Animator is the product of a completely different time. Instead of an old-fashioned B-movie permeated with campy '80s goodness, this third instalment in the Re-Animator franchise is a straight-to-video cheapie, lacking the legitimacy and wit of the earlier pictures. The inimitable Jeffrey Combs reprises his role of Dr. Herbert West, while Bride of Re-Animator helmer Brian Yuzna likewise returns to direct, but it doesn't quite feel the same, with cheap production values and no Bruce Abbott as Dan Cain. Nevertheless, this sequel has its charms despite some major shortcomings - it's an absurd, over-the-top, darkly comic and occasionally fun B-movie when it manages to settle into an agreeable groove.
After a reanimated zombie runs amok and slaughters a teenage girl, Dr. West is finally sent to prison for his dangerous experiments. Incarcerated for thirteen years, West attempts to continue his work behind bars, though he lacks the resources to concoct another batch of his reanimation agent to conduct further tests. However, Dr. Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) takes the job as the prison's new doctor, and specifically requests West to be his medical assistant. Unbeknownst to the tyrannical Warden Brando (Simón Andreu), Phillips intends to continue West's reanimation experiments after witnessing his sister's death at the hands of one of West's creations when he was a young boy. Phillips becomes distracted, however, when he meets journalist Laura Olney (Elsa Pataky), who's doing a story on the penitentiary.
Whereas the first two Re-Animator movies were loosely adapted from H.P. Lovecraft's serialised Herbert West stories, Beyond Re-Animator is entirely original, with Lovecraft no longer mentioned in the credits. The twist to this third Re-Animator is that West discovers a potential way to bring people back to life properly, restoring the souls of the dead, as opposed to simply turning them into mindless zombies prone to degeneration. It's the next logical step in the series, and it is refreshing that the screenplay credited to José Manuel Gómez (from a story by The Lion King and Revenge of the Nerds scribe Miguel Tejada-Flores) exhibits some sense of invention. Nevertheless, perhaps unsurprisingly, the narrative's broad strokes remain similar to the previous Re-Animator flicks, and Beyond Re-Animator will not exactly win awards for dialogue. Additionally, although West prominently features in the first two pictures, he was never the protagonist; he was more of a scenery-chewing side character. Beyond Re-Animator, on the other hand, graduates West to protagonist, and that's an issue since he never grows or develops over the course of the film. Phillips represents Cain's replacement, but he's simply not substantial enough as a potential protagonist, with the material only permitting him a trite romantic subplot with Laura.
Beyond Re-Animator was produced for a meagre $3 million, with costs minimised by filming in Spain, hiring a Spanish crew, and setting the feature primarily within the confines of the prison. To Yuzna's credit, many of the set-pieces are enjoyable enough, with gory highlights transpiring every 15-20 minutes, culminating with a customary prison riot which showcases one outrageous sight after another. Grotesque delights include a reanimated rat playing with an amputated p**** (there's more of that during the end credits), a ripped-in-half inmate swinging through the penitentiary, creative use of the electric chair, a prisoner's stomach exploding spectacularly, and many other instances of spilled guts and severed limbs. Yuzna has fun with the patently absurd material, maintaining an effective comedic tone and never taking things too seriously. Nevertheless, the film does struggle to maintain momentum, with some lackadaisical editing which makes this feel like a rough workprint at times. Also, a few obvious instances of computer-generated imagery betray the practical effects work which defines this film franchise. Alas, Beyond Re-Animator needed a bit more polishing, and snappier editing. Additionally, although composer Xavier Capellas recreates some of the franchise's familiar musical motifs effectively enough, the original score is chintzy and cheap for the most part, and not in a charming '80s fashion. As a result, the production feels all the more generic and low-rent.
Unsurprisingly, Combs is the movie's secret weapon. Despite the production's other shortcomings, Combs gives it his all as Dr. West, playing things totally straight and delivering his dialogue with utmost conviction. For the third time here, Combs turns what is essentially a mad scientist caricature into a believable and endearing character. As West's protégée for this go-round, Barry (who played Tommy Ryan in Titanic) is fine - he's believable enough, and brings requisite intensity to the finale. While Combs is American and Barry is Irish, the rest of the actors are Spanish. However, it's not always obvious, as the characters speak English with convincing accents. Admittedly, some of the performers are visibly dubbed, but the likes of Pataky and Andreu are noticeably permitted their own voices, and they're perfectly adequate as their respective characters.
Combs' Dr. Herbert West remains an outstanding character in both conception and execution, and he should have the same genre notoriety as the likes of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. However, the Re-Animator sequels fail to adequately serve him - he deserves more. Beyond Re-Animator was not actually intended to be the last instalment in this series. A fourth movie, entitled House of Re-Animator, entered active development in 2006, with Combs and Abbott on-board to reprise their respective roles, and original Re-Animator helmer Stuart Gordon returning to direct, but unfortunately it never materialised due to funding difficulties. Beyond Re-Animator is not a downright unwatchable ending for this franchise, as it still has its charms, but it's not a patch on the classic 1985 movie which started it all.
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For Beyond Re-Animator's worldwide Blu-ray debut (releases later materialised in both the United States and Germany), Umbrella make use of a dual-layered BD-50, mastering the movie in AVC-encoded 1080p high definition with an average video bitrate of 24.53 Mbps. Given the rather average bitrate, it's a bit bewildering that Umbrella elected for a BD-50, since they only utilise a scant 28.7GB of the disc, leaving over 20GB unused. Unfortunately, 2003's Beyond Re-Animator fares much worse than Bride of Re-Animator on Blu-ray, though the issue ostensibly traces back to the HD master made available to Umbrella. Even though this is the most recent Re-Animator instalment, it looks the worst, with a presentation smothered in an ungodly amount of digital noise reduction, scrubbing the image of every last ounce of natural film grain and fine detail. As a result, the movie looks smeary, waxy and flat from start to finish, at times looking like an upscaled DVD with weak colours and contrast, and an occasionally murky appearance. The first two Re-Animator movies were lovingly restored in Germany for their high definition debuts, but Beyond looks like the worst kind of dated DVD-era master.
According to IMDb, the movie was completed at 1.66:1, but it is presented on Blu-ray here in 1.78:1, framed to fill a typical widescreen television screen. It is unclear if this transfer is cropped or open matte, or this could even be the originally intended aspect ratio, but I didn't notice any awkward-looking framing. More problematic is the overzealous application of DNR, with the film looking filtered to the extreme. Admittedly, close-ups and medium shots are more serviceable, as there is still some pleasing discernible textures on faces and costumes (a close-up of Pataky at 39:10 is about the best it gets), but that's not a ringing endorsement. Wider shots are a total eyesore for the most part, with nothing in the way of precise textures or fine detail - it all looks waxy and smeary. Additionally, a number of shots look like a standard definition DVD due to the lack of textures as well as poor colours and contrast. At times some grain appears to sneak back into the image, but it sometimes looks more like noise as a result of compression, rather than organic film grain. It's inconsistent, but even when natural-looking grain is apparent, the picture still lacks finer textures. Again, it's clear this master was prepared for the movie's DVD release, with the limitations of such an old scan on full display. At times, the grain isn't just managed but outright obliterated, with the presentation standing alongside Tremors and Predator (the Ultimate Hunter Edition) as some of the most egregious DNR I've ever witnessed. Parts of the frame are even destroyed due to the DNR - text on walls is indecipherable in long shots, and see the bricks in the background at 27:40, which look like haphazard blobs of colour since there is no delineation.
On that note, the presentation is not necessarily sharp - it's a bit soft-looking on the whole, with some shots looking worse than others, as again the excessive DNR robs the image of precise delineation on hairs or stubble. Digitally created shots, such as one at 42:40 or another at 59:25, are noticeably soft, though the restricted resolution of the original render (this is a low-budget 2003 production) doesn't do it any favours. But at least the image isn't further marred by edge enhancement to make it look artificially sharper. The transfer also exhibits frequent print damage, with dirt, flecks and hairs appearing, though it's not too distracting. I also noticed some minor gate weave, with the image occasionally wobbling. These film artefacts are about the least of the presentation's problems, mind you. Furthermore, black levels are hit-and-miss thanks to studiously mediocre contrast - darker areas of rooms never look deep or inky enough, which again gives this the appearance of a DVD. Colours, meanwhile, are dull. Skin looks pasty, primaries never pop, and the palette on the whole just lacks vibrancy. This is the type of dull palette you might expect from a VHS or a DVD, not a Blu-ray. At the very least, I couldn't detect any issues with Umbrella's video encode; no banding, aliasing or ringing. When grain sneaks back into the image, it does look a bit blocky, but that's likely related to the master; again, film scanning technology has come a long way since the early noughties.
As ever, your mileage can and will vary with this flawed transfer - I found the movie easier to watch on my 55" television, as the presentation does not stand up to the increased scrutiny of my 65" TV. The transfer does have its serviceable moments, particularly during the final third, but even at its best, it's still very average and should be better. At its worst, however, it's unwatchable. Beyond Re-Animator is not exactly a highly regarded sequel, and one can certainly understand not much money or effort going into a Blu-ray release. But then again, the U.S. Vestron Video disc from Lionsgate looks a hell of a lot better, with stronger colours, better textures, and a superior grain structure. It's disappointing that Umbrella were only able to license this dated old DVD master as opposed to Lionsgate's more pleasing remaster. Videophiles will undoubtedly be extremely disappointed and will nitpitck the presentation all the way through. Casual viewers might focus less on the shortcomings, but even a blind person could tell that there's something off about this transfer.
Like Bride of Re-Animator, Umbrella include an English (for the hearing impaired) subtitle track. Although the subtitles are easy to read, at times they are out of sync with the dialogue, and accuracy with the dialogue is hit-and-miss. I ended up turning them off. Interestingly, the HD master looks to have been sourced from overseas - while opening credits sequence is in English, the introductory titles are in Spanish. It's not a huge thing, but it is noticeable.
Video Ratings Summary
Aside from the audio commentary, the sole audio option included on the disc is a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is 24-bit. Right out of the gate, during the opening attack scene, there is some major peaking that severely crackles, particularly during screams, which ruins the sense of immersion. The peaking/crackling reoccurs during every set-piece that involves loud noises, most noticeably yelling/screaming. Additionally, there is some slight hissing at times whenever an actor's line of dialogue involves an "s". Added to this, I did notice that the track appears out of sync occasionally, especially when West is talking to the prison guard at the 11-minute mark, but things appear to level out and improve after a little while. However, I don't think this is necessarily a fault of the track - it looks more like the result of poor ADR since the Spanish actor was dubbed.
Outside of these shortcomings, there is little else to complain about. For the most part, the track is sufficiently clear, with smart prioritisation keeping the dialogue comprehensible amid sound effects and music. The soundscape is effective, with the surround channels engaged to accentuate music and environmental ambience. The subwoofer also gives some depth and impact to the track (gunshots sound impactful at 77:40), though I was unable to detect much in the way of noticeable separation or panning effects (aside from Cabrera being thrown off-screen at 81:05). While this audio track does fine for the most part, the flaws are hard to ignore, particularly since Beyond Re-Animator is all about the set-pieces, and there is too much crackling/peaking to really enjoy it all. It's a real shame.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
Beyond Re-Animator retains the special features created for the special edition DVD back in the early 2000s, while Umbrella have also sourced an array of cast and crew interviews.
Audio Commentary with Brian Yuzna The director of Beyond Re-Animator flies solo for this audio commentary track, which seems to be for the best as the track is focused and informative as a result. Yuzna comes in strong from the start, talking about shooting the opening sequence in Barcelona, and the difficulty of finding an American-style house to serve as the setting. He mentions including Combs in said opening, and not trying to make the actor look younger despite the scene taking place in 1990. Other topics include working with the rat, the prison location (an abandoned prison that was tweaked by the production to look both modern and American), the actors, and more. Many of the crew are given an appropriate shoutout, with Yuzna praising the work of the writer, the editor, the 1st AD, the composer, and more. The funding is discussed, too, with Yuzna stating that nobody was willing to fund a Re-Animator movie all throughout the 1990s. He even says that Bruce Abbott was meant to be involved in a third Re-Animator, but the director chose to include a younger associate for West instead. Also interesting: revealing that some of the Spanish actors were dubbed in post-production, as their accents were too strong. The discussion is primarily kept scene-specific, and Yuzna is surprisingly thoughtful in regards to many aspects of the movie. Indeed, the production was not as slapdash as many might assume. However, there is an intermittent high-pitched ringing to the track which is hard on the ear at times - it sounds like ringing emitted from a hearing aid. Despite this, there is lots to glean from this fast-moving, informative commentary track.
The Making of Beyond Re-Animator (720p; 17:56) Here we have an archival featurette, seemingly created around the time of the movie's 2003 release, which offers a reasonably interesting behind-the-scenes look at Beyond Re-Animator. We get interviews with Yuzna, Combs, Barry, Pataky, and more, along with a pleasing amount of candid on-set footage. The extra delves into the production at large, touching upon the locations and special effects, in addition to exploring the making of individual scenes and beats. The majority of the interviews are in Spanish with English subtitles (since the actors themselves are Spanish), while the film clips are also in Spanish, and the crew speak Spanish in the behind-the-scenes footage.
Dr. Re-Animator: Move Your Dead Bones (720p; 4:13) An amusing, good-natured, goofy music video that was created to promote Beyond Re-Animator at the time of its release. I must admit I had a good laugh at this, particularly due to the cheesy music and the sincerity of the choreography. This music video was actually directed by Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona, who went on to helm movies like The Orphanage and 2018's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Encoded in 720p, but taken from an SD source.
Interviews (720p; 18:08) Here we have the raw EPK interviews that were edited into the "making of" featurette. Therefore, all of the interview material from said featurette is included here, plus the additional material that wasn't used. The framing of the interviews is bizarre - these are taken handheld, with frequent camera movement, zooming, and some odd framing. Still, these are relatively interesting. There are six interviewees: Brian Yuzna, Santiago Segura, Jeffrey Combs & Jason Barry (recorded together), Simón Andreu, and Elsa Pataky. It's worth noting that, like in the featurette, the interviews with Segura, Andreu and Pataky are in Spanish with English subtitles.
Behind the Scenes (720p; 12:24) Here's twelve minutes of raw, fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes footage from the making of Beyond Re-Animator. We get to see scenes being shot, and Yuzna giving directions to the actors. I expected this to be the same footage edited into the "making of" featurette, but this seems to be new material - I don't recall seeing any of this footage in the featurette. On the whole, this is a worthwhile selection of B-roll footage that gives you an idea of the on-set atmosphere. This is mostly in Spanish, with English subtitles.
Trailer (720p; 1:54) The movie's trailer, taken from an unremastered standard definition source (complete with aliasing, terrible contrast and milky blacks). I always appreciate the inclusion of a trailer - I actually watched this right before the movie.
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Beyond Re-Animator was released on Blu-ray in the United States by Lionsgate as part of their Vestron Video line a month after Umbrella's disc hit shelves. Compared to the Lionsgate disc, Umbrella's release misses out on:
The Lionsgate disc, however, seems to miss out on:
- Remastered video presentation
- Isolated Score Selections & Audio Interview with Composer Xavier Capellas
- "Beyond & Back" - An Interview with Director Brian Yuzna (18:50)
- "Death Row Sideshow" - An Interview with Actor Jeffrey Combs (20:09)
- "Six Shots By Midnight" - An Interview with S. T. Joshi (16:13)
- Production Art Gallery by Illustrator Richard Raaphorst (4:38)
Obviously, an amalgamation of everything would be the definitive disc for Beyond Re-Animator, but instead fans are left to pick their poison. I'm giving the win to the Lionsgate disc, for obvious reasons.
- Behind the Scenes footage
I didn't hate Beyond Re-Animator, but it's not an especially good sequel, and it's a disappointing end for Jeffrey Combs' Dr. Herbert West. Nevertheless, it does have its charms, and it's not a total bomb.
Umbrella bring the movie to Blu-ray for the first time in Australia. At the time of this disc's release, it was also Beyond Re-Animator's worldwide Blu-ray debut. Unfortunately, the video leaves much to be desired, as the master is horribly dated, with egregious digital noise reduction robbing the HD presentation of texture. The accompanying audio track does fine for the most part, but it's not without flaws. The special features are fine but not overwhelming. It's a so-so Blu-ray release of a so-so movie.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
|DVD||Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|