Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis

“Send more security guards.”

I was getting a little concerned. Most of the reviews I've posted so far have been positive, and the last thing I want is to get a reputation as a quote whore. “I laughed! I cried! It pushed all the right buttons!” Barf.

Fortunately, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis—a steaming dog turd of a film if there ever was one—has broken that cycle. The box cover and title card don't use the number “4,” presumably in the hope that no one will notice this is the forth installment in a series that tanked with part 2. Someone must have thought removing the “4” would make the movie prettier, but everyone knows that even if you put a dead woodchuck in a satin dress and tiara, no one is going to take it to the prom.

Charles Garrison (Peter Coyote) is an employee of Hybra Tech corporation, a conglomerate that manufactures everything from napalm to salsa chips. They're also responsible for the cleanup of every zombie infestation in the ROTLD universe. Garrison is conducting some company business in the irradiated remains of the Chernobyl nuclear facility, where he purchases several barrels of Tri-Oxin which, as we know from the previous films, is a reanimation chemical. After an unfortunate mishap that leads to some brain munching, Garrison somehow gets the cannisters back to the United States and sets about reanimating the dead in his laboratory.

Garrison's nephews, a moody teenager named Julian and his kid brother Pyro, are all crabby and angsty in the wake of their parents' deaths the year before. Julian spends much of his time with his friends, a mind boggling circle of teen stereotypes including the hot headed-Latino, the pretty nerd girl, the blonde sexpot, and the token African-American. Director Ellory Elkayem has obviously seen Not Another Teen Movie, but sadly he didn't get the joke.

While showing off on his dirt bike, Julian's best friend Zeke knocks himself cold. Julian is told at the hospital that Zeke died tragically from a reaction to pain killers, but Zeke's ex-girlfriend Katy has just seen Zeke being wheeled into Hybra Tech where she works. Our teen heroes deduce that Hybra Tech is up to no good, and they hatch an elaborate and convoluted plot to spring their friend. In the process, though, several of Garrison's experiments are released, and the guttural cry of “BRAAAAAAAAIIIIIINS,” is once again heard across the land.

This movie left me with many questions, but the biggest of them is what the hell is wrong with Peter Coyote's mouth? He has this weird lip-over-the-gum grimace throughout, as if he's having trouble keeping his dentures in place. On the other hand, John Keefe who plays Julian often tries to look intense but comes off as constipated. I suggest dental checkups and bran muffins for the entire cast.

Why are there no security guards to stop the teens from entering this top secret facility? When they suspect their friend has been kidnapped, why doesn't anyone just call the police? It is established early on that the zombies can be killed by a gunshot to the head (contrary to previous entries in the series), why then do we see zombies dropping over from being shot in the chest? Finally, one member of the cast wears his status as cannon fodder so obviously that I have to ask why isn't he wearing a red Starfleet uniform?

The previous films in this series were never any great shakes in the originality department (For a rundown of the original Return of the Living Dead's convoluted origin and tenuous connection to George Romero's Dead films, see my review.), but this installment has resorted to blatant thievery. Anyone who has seen the Resident Evil movies will recognize Hybra Tech as a thinly disguised version of the Umbrella Corporation. The souped up cyborg zombies are obviously inspired by RE's Nemesis character, but look like The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

According to the IMDB, most of the surviving characters will be back for Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave. I, however, will not.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

Do you think that living-dead-alien-embryo thing looks suspiciously like Michael Jackson?

Cause I do.

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