Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005)

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005)

You cannot kill what is already dead

A teenager has an accident on his motorcycle and is seemingly taken to the local hospital where his friends go to visit him. But they find out that he wasn’t taken there – he was taken to a high-tech medical facility owned by a powerful corporation and is to become another of their experiments. His friends break in to the facility to rescue him but inadvertently release a horde of zombies who are eager to feed their hunger for brains.

 

Brains! Never mind the zombies, that is something the makers of this film could have done with. The fourth instalment of the Return of the Living Dead series is a far cry from the highs of the cult classic original. Gone is the sense of morbid humour. Gone is the seriousness of the zombie attacks. Gone is any last shred of decency that straight-to-DVD sequels ever had. Gone are the last remaining bastions of the zombie genre with both George A. Romero’s series falling off the wagon and then this series meeting the same demise. Zombie films just aren’t what they used to be! It’s a totally over-exposed sub-genre at the moment – I’ve lost count of the amount of zombie films made over the last few years compared to a similar time frame in the 90s or 80s. And when a genre becomes over-exposed, you either need to pull a rabbit out of the hat and show the people something totally different or just homage the classics with witty dialogue and buckets of gore. Sadly Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis does neither. The thing this pays homage to is to the steaming pile of crap left behind by the horses at Royal Ascot.

Continuity and following up has never been a strong point with this series, save for the inclusion of the barrels of the gas that turns people into zombies. So the series is constantly in a state of rebooting itself which is good and bad. However one constant was the morbid humour and the copious amounts of brains and blood that were spilled. You could be laughing one minute but then howling in horror the next with the first three films. This one plays it as straight as possible with an odd jokey moment thrown in. The zombies themselves look OK – nothing you haven’t seen from the likes of Resident Evil. But they have this annoying knack of biting through the back of the skulls of their victims. It may look a bit slick the first time but it seems like this is the only way they can kill people. It’s like the special effects team only knew how to do this one effect. What happened to throat rippings? Or just a good old fashioned gang attack where they rip someone apart (see the original Day of the Dead)?

Also the ‘rules’ of the genre tend to be forgotten for whatever the script dictates at the time. Sometimes the zombies stagger along, sometimes they sprint. There’s even a scene where three of the teenagers take on a bunch of zombies bare-fisted – since when was the power of a punch enough to destroy a zombie? One thing I’ve noticed in other reviews is that they moan on about how the zombies don’t get killed by a bullet to the brain. Well the series broke with tradition in the original where the bumbling guys in the warehouse smashed the zombie in the head with a pick axe and it kept going. So there’s a continuation of that here. There’s also the addition of two super-zombies who look more like The Borg from Star Trek, complete with mini-guns and chainsaw blade arms. Their purpose is pointless given how easily they are dispatched towards the end of the film. I’ll at least say that there are plenty of zombie attacks. From the time the zombies are released from the facility, there’s plenty of carnage on display and it does become mildly entertaining, it’s just a pity that the script is so bad that the carnage is the only thing worth noting.

Like most of the low budget horror films I’ve seen recently, this one has been filmed in Eastern Europe somewhere. It’s cheaper and more cost effective to shoot in Romania or Bulgaria for a few weeks. The problem is that these locations never double convincingly for America and worst of all, everyone apart from the main actors speak with extremely broken English accents. Having said that, the American cast don’t do particularly great. The teenage cast do little other than fulfil their cookie cutter roles. The only character worth mentioning is Jana Kramer, who plays the smoking hot brunette. But then the mention is purely sexual because he’s hot as hell. I could quite easily have muted the film and just looked at her. On the flip side, Peter Coyote is absolutely dreadful as the nefarious Uncles Charles who works in the facility. I’ve seen some overacting in my time but this guy is hamming it up to record levels of cheese. He’s got this constant eerie grin on his face, probably laughing to himself knowing how much more he’s getting paid than everyone else.

 

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis is a lot worse than I was expecting and seems to more at home alongside the dreadful-but-mildly-entertaining House of the Dead II: Dead Aim rather than the original Return of the Living Dead. You’ll be amazed at how predictable, dull and generally tired the film becomes – something the first films in the series never managed to become. They were always fresh, full of new ideas and entertaining. We even get an open ending for the sequel (filmed at the same time). Hurrah – I can’t wait to watch it!

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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