Welcome to 2006 – Same as 1986 – Same as 1976. It would seem with all the remakes, rehashings, reduxes and reimaginings going on, that somehow time has been rendered irrelevant. Case in point: Last night I sat down to check out the Lionsgate’s release of a sequel to a film franchise that had been left for dead 13 years ago. But like the zombies that plague another group of rag tag teens, the dead are back and not just for one more Return of the Living Dead go-round, but for two – more on that in a minute.
RoLD part 4 made its debut last year on the Sci-Fi channel. This brain sucking compilation of clichés would have worked wonders set smack dab in the middle of the blissful ignorance of the Reagan 80’s. Unfortunately in the self-effacing world of Internet genre geeks, the film looks and feels less like the moldy cheese of youth that we now place on pedestals and more like a half-assed attempt at recapturing the kind of magic that only exists with the passage of time.
Like so many horror films, past, present and future, Necropolis relies on the quick assemblage of a group of high school teens, who in order to regain control of their lives, take on the monsters in a fashion that is ill suited for the constraints of reality. In this case, our motley crew of disaffected youth stock up with more guns and ammo than Dick Cheney would need at the Democratic National Convention to save their friend from becoming a lab rat for nasty multi-national corporation, Hybra-Tech. Hybra-Tech is just your average everyday Zombie factory and they do everything a big bad conglomerate could do in the world of horror. They make small, medium and large variety zombies, they make fetal clone zombies, they even make a pair of killer military zombies that are likely to get them sued by the special effect company that created the Borg make-up for Star Trek. Just to be clear here, in case there’s any confusion – Big companies are not nice, look at the examples – Cyberdyne Systems, Weyland Yutani, or Walt Disney – it’s a rough world out there.
Director Ellory Elkayem, who gave the world the retro-giant bug flick Eight Legged Freaks, pulls double duty shooting both Necropolis and RotLD 5: Rave to the Grave back-to-back with most of the same cast intact. It’s a shame that most of what made Eight Legged Freaks work is lost in Necropolis. The humor falls flat, the characters are all fairly annoying, and the dead are hardy menacing. By the way – who forgot to give Peter Coyote his stool softener? I mean for most of the film, Pete looks like he needs some serious Mexican food to clear out that colon – His whole performance physically hurt me. The rest of the cast fare slightly better, if only because most of them are dead before the closing credits. The only performance of note is that of Aimee-Lynn Chadwick, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Meg Ryan, about the time she was making Armed and Dangerous. Chadwick manages to pull off the geek-is-sweet, sidekick role that made all those damn 80’s film so freaking adorable even in spite of her character’s incredibly ridiculous introduction. The film, which was shot in Romania and the Ukraine, also suffers from an inordinate number of Eastern European accents perpetrated by a cast that is supposed to be in “somewheresville” America. I guess “somewheresville” is a magical place that employs a lot of illegal immigrants – like the Hamptons. Typically I would never notice something as trivial as the accents of the cast but there were so many it bordered on obscene!
Necropolis offered a few funny nods to the other films in the series, most notably the original RotLD. Once the dead have escaped and are wreaking havoc all over the Hybra-Tech facilities, one of the slow moving suckers snacks on a stout security guard and soon after utters the none-to-subtle line “Send more security guards”. This was my favorite moment in the film, and I perked up at the very memory of Linnea Quigley slinking sexily in a cold graveyard, but alas, there were no sultry seductions to speak of in Necropolis. However, there certainly was ample time for it, as the first 35 minutes of the film features an over-excessive amount of exposition. I imagine it must be a daunting task indeed but somehow Director Elkayem along with screenwriters William Butler and Aaron Strongoni actually made an 85-minute film seem long-winded. Hats of to those guys for bringing us what felt like the Lord of the Rings of undead flicks.
It might seem like Necropolis offers nothing special to the viewer but the film still suggests a simpler time in Sci-fi and Horror, when a few gruesome effects, a cheap script job, and a cast of pretty-but-bland stereotypes could make a Friday night schlockfest seem like the best time ever. If for nothing else, Necropolis deserves a mountain of credit for giving it the old college try. So, with this puppy and the upcoming DVD release of Rave to the Grave, Lionsgate has mounted up a pair of zombie trash troves that should, if nothing else, make old timers like me thankful for the originals and new kids interested in searching them out.