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John’s Horror Corner: Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005), not even zombie rotisserie sewer rats or Cenobite-Borgs can save this sequel from itself.

October 24, 2021

MY CALL:  I was really hoping this would be more watchable and enjoyable as a B-movie… but it’s just not. God bless it, it tries. There’s Cenobite-Borg zombies with guns and blades for arms but even still, this just isn’t worth it for me—not even for a bad movie night.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis: Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) strikes me as the best of the RotLD sequels.

As if capturing the satirical social commentary of Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers, RoboCop), the movie opens with a company infomercial about a toxic waste disposal company that also makes processed food snacks and handles zombie outbreaks… all with a smile! As promising as this gag is, it’s also probably the most inspired part of the movie.

During a business trip to… uhhhh, Chernobyl… Charles (Peter Coyote; The 4400, Sphere) intends to buy the last zombie barrels known to exist (lest we forget this entire movie series enjoys its barrel-stored zombies). But, no surprise, something goes wrong and someone is infected by some leaking goo and starts leaping at people yelling “brains.” It’s pretty crass. It’s also interesting how these zombies so instantly realize and understand exactly what they’re bodies crave: brains. But I readily forgive it when, in proper B-movie form, our fresh zombie disarms its victim of his gun and bites a hole right through the skull of his forehead. It’s kinda dumb in the ways we want in a bad movie, but kinda ill-executed even for that.

So right away it is evident that the writing, acting, and most aspects of the filmmaking are rather weak. The soundtrack is even distinctly annoying, wielded like a weapon in the hands of a teenager intent on aggravating his parents. But the gore and bloodwork are up to snuff for a casual viewing of a lower budget late sequel. So I guess it could be worse.

A group of high school seniors—including Becky (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick), Cody (Cory Hardrict; Warm Bodies, The Day), Julian (John Keefe), Katie (Jana Kramer; Laid to Rest, Prom Night) and Zeke (Elvin Dandel; Pumpkinhead 4) among others—end up getting involved when one of them ends up at a zombie research facility instead of an ER after a dirt-biking accident.

The movie really drags with extended scenes of ‘just driving’ and ‘kids doing kid stuff.’ The number and length of scenes of these kids doing absolutely nothing on their motorcycles is maddeningly stupid. Equally stupid is a kid using nunchucks against a zombie. Surely this is meant to be hilarious, and it should have been—but it wasn’t. Sigh. Perhaps this movie could have been under an hour if we cut these crap scenes. But truth be told, the movie wouldn’t be much improved for it.

Remember the military research facility in Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)? Well this movie basically does that all over again, except the sets and zombies don’t look as convincing, nor is this sequel nearly as entertaining.

While the gore is good, the zombies are less so. Watching a punk zombie with a somehow immaculate mohawk animate from the dead like a bad actor twitching about is painful. Yeah, that sucked. I’m really not fond of the zombies’ movement style. And most zombies are freshly turned; so no fun effects for decomposition or rot or bones covered in putrefied gobbledygook. When we do see older, more rotten zombies, the effects are sadly quite poor. But on the other hand, the zombified hobo-dinner rotisserie sewer rat was good hokey fun. So there’s that, I guess. It was my favorite zombie scene, able to capture the right level of silly hokiness as well as solid yet laughable execution.

But again, the gore works just enough to keep me from hating my life while watching this movie. Skullcapping head bites are gooey and gross, and bodies are torn apart and disemboweled in classic fashion. There are even two Borg-Cenobite zombies armed with blades and guns. Unfortunately… meh. It’s one of those ‘expected a lot, got a little’ situations that are commonplace in this sequel.  Speaking of which, here’s a note to the director: fist fights with street-fighting zombies are stupid; smack-talking zombies are also stupid.

Director Ellory Elkayem (Eight Legged Freaks) does absolutely nothing to incline me to view yet the next sequel (part 5, Rave of the Dead) which he also helmed. Sorry, horror fans, but this one is a hard pass recommendation from me.

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