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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Re-Animator’ a Grisly, Witty Romp

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Bride of Re-Animator” opens today at selected theaters, but its most appropriate venue is Hollywood’s venerable Vista Theater, where it officially premieres Friday at midnight. That’s because it’s pretty gory for regular bookings, yet has a saving wit and style and overall sheer outrageousness that’s just right for the midnight circuit.

As the title suggests, it’s a sequel to “Re-Animator,” an adaptation of an H. P. Lovecraft novel that was one of the most imaginative horror movies of the ‘80s. The sequel is every bit as amusing as the original, though probably grislier. The linchpin element in both films is Jeffrey Combs, who plays a prim, bitchy, unflappable mad genius faultlessly. At Massachusetts’ Miskatonic University Hospital he discovered an iridescent green serum that brought the dead to life, but it had the unfortunate side effect of turning them into zombies with brutal killer instincts.

Five years have passed since the infamous “Miskatonic Massacre,” during which time West and the fellow resident doctor (Bruce Abbott) he has in his thrall have done penance by volunteering for medical duty in a bloody border war in Peru. When the two return to Miskatonic, Combs has brought back with him yet another scary discovery: by combining his re-animating serum with the amniotic fluid of a rare species of iguana he is able to re-animate severed body parts. In no time these guys have enough limbs and organs to create the “bride” of the film’s title.

Just when you think that director Brian Yuzna and his co-writers have gone too far in their displays of hideous morbidity--the film’s battery of special effects wizards have outdone themselves--Combs drops an hilarious bon mot with the timing of Bette Davis as Margo Channing in “All About Eve.” “Bride of Re-Animator” (rated an appropriate R), which benefits immensely from a lush, moody score by Richard Band (as did the original film), is absolutely not for children or for the squeamish, but it’s pretty funny all the same.

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