Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005) (USA)
When I reviewed Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (part 5 of the series), I noticed that many of the same characters were present in both parts 5 and 4. But part 5 was presented as a stand-alone story, not as a continuation. I hadn't seen part 4 at that point, so I speculated as to how the characters in part 4 might have forgotten the trouble they had presumably gotten into with zombies, so that they did it all over again in part 5. Well, now I've seen part 4, and the characters' reactions in part 5 still don't make a whole lot of sense. It's not even clear why the same characters were re-used (other than the fact, as I mentioned in my review of part 5, that the filmmakers appeared to be shooting both films at the same time, with the same actors, two for the price of one). Given that this is part 4, though, I suppose I should review it as if part 5 didn't exist yet.
Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis is a step toward genericness from the first three movies of the series. It continues with the idea of the powers that be experimenting on innocent people with trioxin, a chemical that causes people to revive as zombies, except in this case it's a giant corporation doing it instead of the military. This entry in the series has neither camp nor plot going for it, instead just drumming up a flimsy pretext for a group of teenagers to break into the coporation to find a friend they believe is being held captive there. The movie really isn't bad as much as mechanical and uninspired. The acting was OK, the zombie makeup was fine, and the action scenes were, well, action scenes. But the whole thing came off as a factory-stamped product with the Return of the Living Dead name on it, and nothing else to really recommend it.
The lead is Julian Garrison (John Keefe), a young man who lost his parents in a car accident and now lives with his evil Uncle Charles (Peter Coyote) and his younger pyromaniacal brother, Jake (Alexandru Geoana). The filmmakers try to inject some pathos into the film by having Jake be angry and antisocial, but the scenes in which this is shown are so perfunctory that we know this has no impact on the story, and is only there to try to flesh out the characters. Julian and his friends like to pass the time by riding around on their motorbikes and doing jumps to impress each other. Each friend has some characteristic that seems to have been chosen at random solely for the sake of giving them something to set them apart. I shouldn't knock this as much as I am, maybe, since everyone likes fleshed-out characters, but the arbitrariness of their distinguishig features just emphasizes how shallow the characters really are.
Given that, it should be no surprise that one doesn't really care about the characters, which leaves you with nothing to appreciate but the artistry of the kills. For the avid zombie movie watcher, though, for the most part a kill is a kill is a kill, and if that's all the movie has going for it, it's not likely to hold interest. This is a needless entry in the series, and while it may be entertaining for newcomers to the genre, for the seasoned vets it's nothing special.