JANUARY 12, 2012
I certainly didn’t LIKE Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis, but I will stand by my claim that it was a mild improvement on the 2nd film, which inexplicably brought back two actors to play different characters, focused too heavily on the comedy, and neglected to use the already established story from the original to create a faster pace – if anything it was SLOWER. Necropolis, on the other hand, suffered from some of the same problems… just in a slightly better way. However, Return Of The Living Dead 5: Rave To The Grave, is just as abysmal as ROTLD2, possibly even worse; the only interesting thing about it is that it actually mirrors that one in ways that I assume are not intentional.
The biggest is that it once again brings back actors from the previous film but doesn’t continue their actual character arcs. But it’s WORSE than 2, because there they were supposed to be different people in similar situations (how audiences were supposed to understand that, I have no idea), whereas here they are the same characters but have seemingly forgotten everything that happened to them in the previous movie! It’s Peter Coyote’s nephew and his girlfriend again, yet they have not only forgotten about Coyote’s attempts to kill them (he dies in the first 5 minutes of this one and the kid is actually broken up about it), but they seemingly don’t even recall anything about the zombies! Granted, I haven’t exactly stored the 90 minutes of Necropolis on my brain’s hard drive, but I’m pretty sure I’d remember if the characters were all brain wiped at the end of the film.
And again, despite the fact that the zombie problem has already started, we AGAIN have to start all over, which allows the filmmakers to keep the film from having any real action until the final reel. It’s a problem in pretty much every movie, which is unique to this particular zombie series – Romero only rebooted it once (in Diary), otherwise he always used the previously established problem as a means of getting into the meat of his story, which is what any intelligent screenwriter will do. But these two movies were written by Bill Butler, who also gave us gems like Demonic Toys 2 and Gingerdead Man, so telling a good story doesn’t seem to be something that concerns him.
But yeah, it’s Rave to the Grave – I shouldn’t expect wacky things like decent storytelling or interesting characters. Nor would I care that the movie lacked them, IF it was actually entertaining on some level, which it is not. Again, the zombie outbreak starts from scratch, so the promised “Rave” doesn’t even START until past the movie’s one hour mark, and then there’s a bit before the zombies start showing up there. The movie’s only good idea is that the Trioxin has found its way into some designer drugs, so all the idiots that are at the rave are popping the pills and turning, and no one else thinks much of it because they’re also high or just “feeling the music” or whatever it is that people at raves do instead of playing Skyrim like normal folks (level 26! Almost maxed on Smithing!). But even though they set up that pretty much everyone in attendance will turn into a zombie, it’s remarkably low-key, and even when “all hell breaks loose” they keep stopping the action to focus on two characters talking in a room or isolated, meaningless gags involving less than a handful of zombies attacking one dude.
They also bring back the Tarman, who earns one of the movie’s few laughs (and is given a nice modern makeup look by John Vulich) but it reeks of desperation, serving only to remind us exactly how far the series has fallen. It also just makes their refusal to follow the original’s “rules” more puzzling – it’s the same Trioxin, Tarman’s still around, etc – so why does a shot to the head actually work now, when the fact that it WOULDN’T was such a big factor in the original? And how many cans of this shit can possibly fall into the wrong hands, anyway? Coyote mentions that it’s one of the “original” cans – in 20 years they still haven’t found them all? It’s the rare sequel that would have been better if they had just ignored the other entries – at least then I could assume they slapped the title on an unrelated movie, a la all of those Demons “sequels”. But by constantly trying to tie it in, they just make it worse for themselves.
The only saving grace is Jenny Mollen, who plays the female lead and seems to be the only actor in the film capable of delivering a line (that she’s one of the few non-Bulgarians helps), and like Lance Henriksen, doesn’t let the fact that this is a worthless role in an equally worthless film deter her from actually putting some effort into it. I guess Coyote is as good as always too, but since he’s dead before the end of the first chapter it’s kind of hard to judge.
This was shot back to back with Necropolis*, which probably accounts for why that one was “not TOO terrible” and this one is “somehow more awful than you’d expect”, because they probably put more money/effort into that one and were all just burned out by the time this thing rolled. Someday there will actually be a good 2nd entry in a back to back production (every single one of them has failed – excepting LOTR which is a wholly unique situation), but until then we can continue to use movies like this as an example of why they shouldn’t even try in the first place.
What say you?
*According to an IMDb post, the scripts for the two films were actually swapped before production, so perhaps the giant plot holes were caused from that. However it doesn’t help much – that means Coyote would have died before his far bigger role in the other movie! What a friggin mess.