What Is It? Zombie Action
Who Is In It? Coyote Peter
Should I See It? Maybe
Necropolis is a truly amazing motion picture. Filmed in Romania and the Ukraine on a six million dollar budget, the picture debuted edited on the Sci-Fi Channel before being released with an "R" direct-to-DVD the following year. By all rights, this should have been as big an atrocity as Day of the Dead 2: Contagium, but it is instead an incontestably worthy standard bearer for the Return of the Living sequel series. That is to say that it is mildly enjoyable, with reasonably good production values, some solid bits of gore, a degree of crossover appeal, and is above all entirely adequate.
While the flick sets aside several of the innovations that set Return apart from all the other zombie movies (the undead desiring brains as a temporary analgesic; victims' slow, conscious transformations; the creeps' more decayed state, their being immune to "head shots" or permanent kills of any kind,) there are a surprising number of faithful elements (Trioxin barrels, electricity as a vulnerability, talking zombies (okay, twoish) with familiar personalities, precocious child endangerment, romantic douchebaggery, slumming veteran actor in a major role, etc.) Each movie in the series has made its tweaks and had its idiosyncrasies, so savaging it over being mildly retarded and taking liberties with the rather fluid "lore" seems foolish to me.
The movie is very much a child of the '80s, dumb and filled with cliché. However, it is also conveniently of the now, in that the kids are remarkably proactive, resourceful, and remorselessly kill the shit out of zombies (knowing full well they're irredeemable.) After almost a decade and a half of Resident Evil, there's no dragged out realizations about the dealio, although better aim and fewer nun-chucks should have been brought to bear.
All of the leads are plastic California twentysomethings, just like ROTLD 3 and plenty of other genre examples. I did a web search to see if Peter Coyote had a stroke or in some other way suffered a debilitating ailment to explain his stiff, grimacing, uniformly terrible performance. About half the speaking parts went to the former Soviet block, who are either spectacularly misrepresented as "Latinos" or even more hilariously dubbed very badly. Among the kids, there's a retread of the male lead from ROTLD3 with less personality but ironically more sideburns (John Keefe,) the token black (but he's a computer hacker played by Cory Hardrict,) the exceedingly fuckable "geek" girl with the glasses and very minor overbite (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick,) the also fuckable popular girl (Jana Kramer,) the assholish Mexi-Can (nationality unknown) who still takes care of business (Toma Danila,) the prick who helps start the trouble (Elvin Dandel,) and after the three guys I almost like I'm already bored with this list.
This is definitely one of the most fantastically expository pieces of cinema in memory. I can't recall a single bit of dialogue that wasn't created to serve a specific plot point in the film, and most of the characters are similarly designed for optimal function. My favorite example is the "triple-jointed" gymnast Darque Tan casualty who exists to a) be introduced, b) seduce a security guard c) get killed, d) set up one of the few partially functional humorous/tragic moments. Four notable appearances, by-the-numbers, just like "Hannibal" Smith would have planned it. Sure it's cynical, but I respect its precise application (if not its absence of nudity, the most obvious and natural exploitation of such a character.)
The music is mostly the shambling remains of nü-metal, including an ill-timed Godsmack single recycled from The Scorpion King's soundtrack, and an Alice Cooper tune. There are some attempted jump scares. The make-up is effective enough to get the job done, and there are few okay special effects. The direction is pedestrian and the acting is at the level of a lesser teen drama. It's not really good, the story logic is all its own, and it's not really recommended, but it's far more watchable and much less terrible than you might have heard.
- Animated Menu Remember those? That sure took me back.
- Trailers Yes.