After the Return Of The Living Dead franchise was brought back from the grave by the Syfy Channel with the annoyingly dopey fourth installment, Necropolis, it would have been understandable if even the most ardent fan of Dan O’Bannon’s classic would want the series to finally rest in piece – however, as we all know, the recipients of the resurrecting chemical known as Trioxin don’t go down particularly easily.
As barely functional as Necropolis was, it was part of a buy one get one free deal as a fifth installment, dubbed Rave From The Grave, was shot back to back with its predecessor whether we wanted it or not. However while shooting them back to back may have been frugle, I suspect shooting them in the head outright might have been better for everyone involved…
After the events of Necropolis has seemingly not affected anyone at all in any way shape or form (?) we rejoin the survivors as they get on with their narcolepsy inducing school lives that somehow plays like an even more obnoxious Porky’s movie. However, while the kid’s antics somehow make gratuitous nudity and copious drug use seem bland as an air sandwich, corrupt military scientist Charles Garrison meets with agents of Interpol in order to sell them the last three remaining barrels of Trioxin that exist in order to ensure that there’s never another zombie outbreak. However, they do this by bizarrely testing the gas at a local mortuary (guess Interpol has their B-team out today) which results in the death of a couple of people – Charles included.
Eventually, word gets back to his nephew Julian, who has obviously forgotten that the man turned his dead parents into biological war machines and caused the zombie outbreak that killed his crush, his best friend and his brother, because he seems pretty shaken at the news, but a search of Charles house turns up the final two Trioxin barrels. Julian and his new girlfriend Jenny vote to turn them in to the authorities their his brain-box buddy and Jenny’s DJ, drug-head brother insist on using the contents to make a new kind of super-drug they dub “Z” and selling it to their class mates. While this decision ranks as intelligent as deliberately infecting yourself with cholera in order to nab a cheeky day off work, Z ends up being a huge hit around campus as everyone gears up for the massive Halloween rave that will absolutely in no way become a gore soaked disaster with a necrotizing barbiturate doing the rounds.
As numerous students start to succumb to a lack of pulse and a rise in the desire to eat brains, two bumbling Interpol agents and Julian and Jenny are the only thing standing between mankind and a total zombie dystopia.
So while Necropolis was hardly what you’d call an undead classic, at least it had a sliver of fun with its themes of war-zombies and some fairly cool brain eating, Rave To The Grave on the other hand, staggers a huge step backwards and spends almost all of it’s time being deeply obnoxious and more than a little confusing. You see, the second ROTLD tried an odd trick of bringing back some of the cast who died in the first as different characters with similar traits, so hapless lugs Freddy and Frank became Joey and Ed; here, Rave To The Grave brings back actual characters from part four, but weirdly has them act wildly different the previous movie for no noticable reason other than shitty writing. John Keefe’s Julian remains as vanilla as ever but seemingly retains no accumulated memory of everything from dead relatives to dealing with Zombies in general while Aimee-Lynn Chadwick’s Becky has gone from plucky nerd to dick hungry skunk and Cory Hardrict’s Cody has gone from intelligent nice guy to amoral asshole. No one was really expecting layered character work from a movie named Return Of The Living Dead: Rave To The Grave, but surely a little movie to movie continuity isn’t too much to ask for, especially when they’re written by the same guy?
Still, a minor plus point is that at least the movie attempts to drop in a few familiar aspects from the franchise starting with the return of a melted, Tar Man character who doesn’t actually bad at all; it’s just a fucking shame that director Ellory Elkayem can’t think of anything to do with him than have him wander up a highway, attempting to hitchhike to a party he would have no knowledge of. Hilarious.
However, the rest of the movie slowly chokes to death on it’s own stupidity as the idiotic characters continually make stupid choices that don’t even do us the decency of being funny. Three frat-house morons immediately exceed the Z dosage suggested supplier, Skeet with the reasoning: “He’s a drug dealer, if he was so smart he’d be in another business.”, while Skeet himself doesn’t even have the common scene not to zombify on his own supply. Elsewhere, Cody fires four warning shots from a gun that only holds six bullets and the script even throws in a passive vegan who experiments on lab mice fir some reason – it’s no surprise that Peter Coyote looks more relieved than horrified when he’s killed in the first scene. Meanwhile, while the plot spills out all over the place like intestines after a clumsy disenbowelment, we have to endure the comedy stylings of the two Interpol agents who are desperately in need of subtitles – not to mention dialogue that’s actually funny – and that remains the primary evidence that both episodes four and five where shot entirely in Romania and the Ukraine, which goes a long way to explain the frequent and varying accents both movies randomly have.
Ok, sure, the law of averages insist that there’s a good moment here and there – kudos to the drummer whose quick thinking leads him to stick his drumsticks into both eyes of the zombie attacking him – but what little fun Necropolis had has long since left the body of the franchise and you most likely be left fuming by petty little inconsistencies like once again these “unkillable” zombies can be easily stopped with a headshot or a climactic bomb dropped on proceedings leaves a massive crater and all the ghouls vanquished while the two leads survive simply by diving through a doorway…
Annoying and sloppy in almost every considerable way as even the movie’s posters alternate between calling it Rave To The Grave and Rave From The Grave; but you’ll struggle to care as this is one franchise that need to be buried a lot deeper than six feet under to hide the stink of its mildly carcass.
Return Of The Living Dud.