Note: My review of Part 4 originally appeared as one half of Matt Paprocki’s Sci-Fi film reviews along with his views of Part 5. You can see that post here. What now have here before you is a reprint of my portion of that column. But wait, there’s more! In a new never before seen written document are my thoughts on Part 5. That’s right, it’s two reviews in one column, one you may have seen and one you have not. Enjoy.
Return of the Living Dead Part 4: Necropolis
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of the Return of the Living Dead movies, to be honest, I can’t even recall if I’ve ever seen Part II. Being that my last viewing is a bit of a fuzzy memory, so my grasp of details is a little slim. Anyway, the returning dead are back for another go around, the first since 1993. There are 2 new sequels, Necropolis and Rave to the Grave. I am here to take a look at the first one, Necropolis.
The show starts with the introduction of a new company, very much in the vein of Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation, called Hybra Tech. They are behind everything from consumer products to military weapons, snack food to toxic waste disposal (hmmmm, want another Twinkie?). Their main claim to fame appears to be their stopping of any zombie outbreaks, and their being responsible for keeping the world zombie free for over a decade (since Part 3).
Not everything is fine and dandy with this all encompassing company, they are also doing illegal testing on human subjects using a modified version of the Trioxin 245 gas from the original films, called Trioxin 5. The scene shifts for more than the first hour to a group of high school kids going about their daily routine, who’s dating who, going to class, jumping motorcycles, you know, the usual. That is until one of the kids gets hurt and finds himself a part of the experiments.
It is up to the rest of the kids to get in a help him escape. This is where the zombie fun begins. All of the experimental creatures get loose and start wreaking havoc. For the last 40 minutes or so we are treated to a barrage of zombie violence. This includes bullets to the head, the backs of skulls getting bitten off, bodies getting run over, and more gore than I expected to see on the Sci-Fi Channel. Then there are the Borg (Star Trek) inspired zombie parents of the main kid. It ends, of course, with the good guys winning, but the battle apparently just beginning, as the chief scientist escapes with the last remaining barrel of chemical.
You may notice a lack of character names, well they were so inconsequential that I don’t recall any of them.
The movie is not all that good. For one thing it doesn’t seem to obey any of the previously established rules, nor does it set up any of it’s own. This results in a mishmash of ways to kill a zombie. Zombies die by head shots, multiple body shots, a broken neck, nothing making a pattern. In this respect, the zombie fan in me is sorely disappointed. You need to have some rules in these films, and considering the series that this supposedly a part of, it would have been nice to have some references to it.
The acting is sub par. None of the kids strike me as terribly bright, especially the guy who wants to see his zombie parents that he thought we actually dead. This requires them to traverse the facility through oncoming waves of the undead. The dialog is bad, the characters say stupid things to each other, and pretend that this is serious. Then there is the usually dependable Peter Coyote, he played the scientist. He has this goofy grin on his face most of the time. You would have expected him to die, but wait for the sequel.
A big problem is that the filmmakers seem to have forgotten the comedic elements of the series. Necropolis plays everything straight, any laughs are unintentional. Of course, there was the one line of homage: “Send more security guards.” Too bad it was rather clumsily wedged in there.
Overall, it is better than your average Sci-Fi Original, but as a Return of the Living Dead sequel, it doesn’t measure up. I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it, but I am glad to have spent the time. Every once in awhile all you need is a corny, doesn’t make sense, zombie movie, especially during the Halloween season.
Return of the Living Dead Part 5: Rave to the Grave
Picking up where Part 4 left off. The last we saw of Peter Coyote’s scientist character, he was sneaking out the back of the research facility with the last remaining barrel of Trioxin. He was attempting to sell it when things go bad and everyone starts dying and gaining a strong desire to consume brains.
The barrel ends up in a back room, where it is discovered by the fortunate survivors of Part 4. They are now college students, who apparently can’t remember what happened to them previously. Anyway, they go to their science nerd friend in order to to figure what the chemical is within that mysterious barrel. One of the guys decides to taste it, determines that it can be sold as a drug. It gets mixed with X and made into little pills and sold to anyone they can find.
During this whole thing they are putting together a rave for Halloween. It is an outdoor setting where lot’s of people can fit, perfect for a slaughter of monumental proportions. Before we can get to that we have to suffer through the slow burn process of setting up the party, and also having a few nobodies show just what this new drug can do, other than give a great high.
But we get more than babbling teens, there are also a pair of Interpol agents who seem so out of place that it isn’t funny. Well, it is, but it’s really not, they don’t bring much to the table other than a pair of guns and bad comedy. They are out to retrieve the barrel and stave off any potential outbreaks, I think.
Before going any further the writing must be touched upon. In a word, awful. In addition to bad dialogue, it seems that none of the rules of the original are used, and neither is what is established in Part 4. Basically, we end up with a pair of movies that essentially, make it up as they go along. Whatever works for the moment is what they go with. I wouldn’t have minded the changes in the rules from the original trilogy, if they established the new rules and stuck to them, they didn’t. My favorite being when a young woman turns into a zombie after being scratched.
So, after the dullness of the first hour we start getting to the good stuff. Well, the sorta good stuff. The rave is in full swing and the drugs are being passed out like candy. Everyone starts freaking out and dying and then biting the backs off of the heads of those still alive. Why was it always the back of the head? It got a little repetitive if you ask me. I know, you didn’t, yet still you read on. The Interpol screw ups arrive, in some great costumes and add some firepower to the mix. Nothing extraordinary here.
The best part of the second half would have to be the appearance of the Tarman zombie. Hearkening back to the original, the cannister opens to reveal a rotting, gooey corpse with one desire on its Trioxin soaked mind, brains! But with not much left alive, he ends up just trying to hitchhike.
Nothing special here. Much like Necropolis, I found this to be better than your average Sci Fi Original, but still not a very good film. The gore was toned down and the nudity was masked, so at least there is something to look forward to in the eventual DVD release.
Fans are sure to be disappointed, perhaps even angry. Those looking to be introduced to the zombie genre, may not choose to explore the more successful entries. Those looking for slightly entertaining low budget horror-comedy, well they may have a good time with this.
I know I sort of enjoyed them. But, to think these were intended for the big screen…..