Sequels can be a tricky prospect, at least when it comes to follow-ups to movies that are classics, cult or otherwise; whereas most slasher franchises can simply slap a Roman numeral on a new draft of the script and call it a day, films that were a little more nuanced or complex don't have the same luxury. I'm sure producer Brian Yuzna thought about this when he set out to make a sequel to the uproarious RE-ANIMATOR in 1990; how does one attempt to expand--or, as all sequels should strive to do--top such a well-made picture as the first one? Give Yuzna credit for trying to do something different with BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR--most producers would be happy to just cobble a screenplay together as quickly as possible and let the previous movie's rabid fan base do the rest--but the finished product is less than satisfying.
Taking over directorial duties for BRIDE, Yuzna reunites Bruce Abbott, Jeffrey Combs, and the late David Gale to continue Dr. Herbert West's quest to perfect the reanimation of dead tissue. And while it's a treat to see each actor revisiting their roles, the chemistry isn't there, inadvertently underscoring just how important Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli were to the first film's success. It doesn't help that BRIDE's script--written by Rick Fry and Woody Keith, who also penned the delirious SOCIETY for Yuzna--keeps Gale's Dr. Hill from menacing West until the very end (most of Gale's screen time is spent in clunky, humorless scenes with Mel Stuart), opting to put Claude Earl Jones in as the main antagonist, a vindictive police detective looking for revenge (his wife was a victim of the original's Miskatonic massacre--a nice tie-in). The script also complicates things further by adding a love triangle for Abbott with a South American beauty (Fabiana Udenio) and a terminally-ill patient that West has plans for (played by Kathleen Kinmont). But the biggest question remains: how in the blue fuck did these guys get positions at Miskatonic University just eight months after unleashing a bloody zombie massacre there?
One of the ill-advised adjustments BRIDE makes is with Herbert West; in the first movie he was a pursuer of forbidden knowledge, obsessed with conquering the permanence of death. Here, he's more of a traditional mad scientist and not as interesting a character. His experiments this time around--not only with the titular piece-meal cadaver, but his mix-and-match approach to spare body parts--are more like those conducted by the Third Reich. And while the movie often feel more like a vehicle for special effects than storytelling (though with six different fx houses in the credits, that's probably inevitable), most of the creations are unique and eye-catching, particularly those by surrealist maestro Screaming Mad George (whatever happened to that guy?)
For the most part BRIDE coasts along by being just good enough to be interesting, but when it reaches its climax--where Abbott and Combs bring their creation to life--it really drops the ball. The reanimated Kinmont not only presages Mindy Clarke's undead sex goddess in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 3 (just what was it about Yuzna and the sexualization of dead women?), but it raises some disturbing questions about West's true motivations--especially his indignation when she refuses to be subservient--questions that're dropped as soon as they raise their head.
All in all, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR isn't a terrible film, but it really isn't a good one, either. I suppose it could've been worse, and considering how well the first one turned out it's inevitable a sequel just wouldn't compare (in the world of low-budget horror it's tough to capture lightning in a bottle once, much less repeat it).