Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005)

After the first few disappointing entries in this series comes the payoff, for anyone who's doggedly stuck with it: Necropolis is a zombie movie the way a zombie movie should be.

Despite a couple of pop-culture references, this film could have been made in the 80s; it's hard to believe that it was only shot in 2005. The obligatory teenaged leads all look and act like their decades-ago counterparts, and there's just something about the look of the movie that makes it just not quite feel like it was made in the 21st century. But that certainly isn't a criticism. Neither is it a criticism to point out that this film completely does away with the conventions of the earlier movies: in Necropolis, zombies don't run, they shuffle; and shooting them in the head works.

Though these qualities are well-worn and have been used by countless movies over the years, not including them in your zombies is like making a vampire movie where the vampires don't suck blood. They're just necessary.

There are other references to earlier instalments in the franchise, though; notably the "send more security guards!" line. But it's funny enough by itself not to need to be backed up by knowledge of the films that went before it.

Plotwise, Necropolis isn't hugely innovative, either: the zombies in barrels are back, and like in Return of the Living Dead 3, a shadowy government initiative is hell-bent on using the reanimating properties of the zombie gas to create an unbeatable army of zombified soldiers. Like in Return of the Living Dead, a motorcycle crash results in one of the teens being hauled off to be zombified; and like in every zombie movie ever made, the zombies get loose and wreck havoc. But it's fun! Actually, it's very fun; funny, well-paced, and packed with more splatter than a Saturday morning kid's show.

And the characters work; they're not just lifeless stereotypes. The hot girl, rather than just being an object of lust for the male lead, gets to be actually useful and intelligent, not to mention calm in a crisis, and saves the day more than once; the geeky guy isn't just a geek; the male lead himself isn't just a whiny idiot, but actually takes responsibility for his own actions and those of others...

I think it's pretty clear that I really enjoyed this movie. Lately there's been a rash of really, really, hideously poor movies being released, and I would never, in a million years, have expected that any film with "4" in the title would be able to restore my faith in the genre, but it has. Ultimately, the charm of this movie is that it's a proper zombie movie, made with due care and attention, without any unnecessary post-modern faffing about. Well played.

IMDB link

No comments: