Allusion is a broad term. To bring something to mind without inherently mentioning it is the leading aim of director Brian Yuzna as he takes on the Re-Animator series. No point deviating from a Frankenstein formula, and if the title of Bride of the Reanimator were not reference enough, the Jeffrey Combs-led comedy-horror wishes to make its influences known. It derives its plot points from the Monsteverse classic, The Bride of Frankenstein, more because that is what the previous instalment did, rather than that of artistic enlightenment. With a story set in place, Combs and company are free to explore whatever they wish.
As it happens, they wish to engage with the horrors that the first film offered. Who’d have thought that would be their aims? They do not quite manage to recapture the glory of Re-Animator. A lighter tone, perhaps, is found in places, but the general shlock and awe gimmick of a man reuniting the deceased with living is present. Combs is happy to be there, revelling in the opportunity to play Herbert West, a twisted madman that an audience can both fear and love. Usually, it is one or the other, but Combs captures the same leading charms as that of the anti-hero. Although his aims are perverse and disjointed, we are cheering him on. What choice do we have? Long-suffering sidekick Dr. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is on hand to lend a reserved hand. He does not condone the bemusing violence, but West at least presents good intentions.
He hopes to bring Dan’s ex-girlfriend back from the dead. Whether he was wanting this is beyond our understanding. It is either not established or dunked deep into the murky, horror-filled waters. Either way, it does not matter. David Gale returns as the dastardly Dr. Hill, and with three characters spectators can latch onto, Yuzna is free to take his direction and story wherever he likes, within reason of course. Where Frankenstein longed for a bride because he longed for human-like emotion, West is acting in his own interest. West wishes to play God, and play God he shall. His immoral and venom-induced stance on testing and experimenting has a harsher bite than the first experience, which was more focused on the impact of his creations, rather than the question of whether he should really bring people back from beyond the grave.
Much of Bride of Re-Animator skirts the edges of being too much. But how much of a good thing is too much? Yuzna nearly finds out, and as he throws glory gore across the screen, there is a sense that the heart of this series is buried deep beneath the blood and guts. Wipe away those eviscerated extras and the sequel has many of the same merits as the first. Combs and Abbott are on top form, Yuzna does nothing particularly incredible, allowing for the chemistry between the two to take control of where his narrative goes. Thankfully, it takes us down the old beaten path, where parody does not quite linger, yet the allusions to The Bride of Frankenstein are obvious all the same.