Some creators are so indelibly linked to a certain franchise or film that it becomes the thing for which they are known, and the title of that film is always located in parentheses after their name. In the case of “Re-Animator,” you might think of director Stuart Gordon, actor Jeffrey Combs, or even original story author H.P. Lovecraft. However, you’d be missing the most important piece of the Herbert West franchise: writer/director/producer Brian Yuzna.
Yuzna’s career in film began in 1985, when he produced a documentary about Sherlock Holmes and, in the same year, produced the first “Re-Animator.” A surprise hit given its over-the-top gore and comedy blended uncomfortably together, it nevertheless paved the way for Yuzna to branch out into other (somewhat surprising) film directions.
After producing “Dolls” and directing his first film, Yuzna found his greatest commercial success when he co-produced and wrote “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” for the Buena Vista Pictures. The film was popular, spawning two sequels and a short-lived television series.
Yuzna, however, made his way back into the horror arena with another entry in Herbert West’s story, “Bride of Re-Animator,” and two extremely unusual entries in the already unusual “Silent Night Deadly Night” franchise.
With a love for Lovecraft’s material that brought him back not only for another West story, “Beyond Re-Animator,” but also the Lovecraft anthology film “Necronomicon: Book of the Dead” and the fascinatingly bizarre “Dagon.” With an impressive number of franchises under his belt (aside from “Re-Animator” and “Silent Night Deadly Night,” Yuzna directed both “The Dentist” and “The Dentist 2”), Yuzna has always fearlessly headed into unknown territory in his sequels and originals, making him an idiosyncratic and remarkable horror director.
Yuzna’s first film as director, “Society” is a pitch black satire of societal norms and expectations, with a healthy dose of the gore and lunacy that was the signature of the “Re-Animator” series. The film follows a young man who feels like he doesn’t fit in with his well-to-do family, only to come home one night to find out that his socially acceptable family isn’t quite what he always thought they were.
The third entry in the franchise begun by director Dan O’Bannon and “Night of the Living Dead” alumni John Russo and Russell Streiner, this franchise was always an unusual hybrid of horror and other genres (often comedy). Yuzna does the previous entries one better, adding a romantic element that is as fun as it is beyond reasonability. An early performance for genre mainstay Melinda Clarke (who would later be seen on “Nikita,” “Entourage,” and “The Vampire Diaries”), this film is the rare second sequel that effectively reinvents a tired franchise concept.
Based on the very graphic and bizarre comic book by Tim Vigil and David Quinn, Yuzna creates a violent opera that is equal parts atmosphere, gore, special effects, and barely contained insanity. A performance from “Re-Animator” friend Jeffrey Combs helps to anchor this deliberately strange film, this is one of Yuzna’s fascinating but ultimately failed attempts to branch out from his horror-comedy roots.