How far beyond do audiences need to be taken of the Re-Animator series? This is further away from the core of that ill-thought-out but ever-enjoyable sequel to the original. Jeffrey Combs returns for his third outing as Dr. Herbert West, a role that will define his career until the end. That is not a bad way to live, but Beyond Re-Animator, the third and (hopefully) final in the series, is a sour note. Combs comes back to the role out of duty more than anything. West meddles with the foundation of science once more in a feature that looks to scare, disturb and shock without trying much at all.
It does not linger on as a lazy feature. Beyond Re-Animator has the benefit of Combs’ dedication to the role. Brian Yuzna returns to direct his second feature of the series, and with the gusto of the shlock and awe style he provided in Bride of the Re-Animator, audiences are conned into a safety net. Happenstance occurrences reunite Combs with a character unknown to those at home, yet surprisingly well-known to West. The brother of a character who featured in a film very vaguely some years ago. My my, what a connection. It is that cling to the past that steers Yuzna and, by extension Combs, so poorly toward the pile of rose-tinted regret. An awkward choice is a reason behind it. Why try and connect the characters to the past features if the main character is still featured? It feels nonsensical, but also essential.
That is the issue Beyond Re-Animator has. It is both a faithful continuation of the characters that return, but also a completely useless expedition into finding new pockets of detail to characters who were, at best, very ill-defined. Combs’ name may be plastered onto the piece, but the focus soon turns to Jason Barry and Elsa Pataky, whose performances leave much to be desired. They are the right fit for this sort of shlock filler, but Combs overshadows them, naturally so. He is the madman at the centre of it all. Beyond Re-Animator depends entirely on the reaction of an audience to Combs’ performance and how well he portrays this old character. Make no mistake, returning to the warmth of a role this big after so many years out in the cold is a hard task to manage. Combs gives it his best shot and is amicable, bolstered by the useless supporters around him.
At the very least, it is still the same gutsy and strange world fans of the series will long for. Beyond Re-Animator is susceptible to backlash from those very same fans. It will appease some and offend others. Mostly, though, it will cut them right down the middle with a big swish of indifference. Combs returns, new characters are built on and broken down, yet none of it matters all that much. What would the point of it all be? Combs cooped up in a cell commandeering experiments on literal lab rats. Why it happens, who knows? What it’s for? Not a clue. It is a film set in places and stages that are there solely to reinvigorate a memory of the films that came before it. Better projects, with smarter ideas and interesting effects. Neither is apparent in this third entry into this odd little trilogy.