Originally released in 2005, when it was aired on the Sci Fi Channel, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis was released on DVD as an R-rated version in 2006. The film continues the story started in Return of the Living Dead, using the substance Trioxin (Tioxin in the original) and the “dead canisters” of that film but lacking anything else that made that film such as success.
Simply put, this movie is a turkey from beginning to end. Lacking the original’s potent blend of humor and horror, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis will test the guts of even the most stalwart zombie fanatic. Although the basic zombie formula survives intact, the bulk of the film is a bore, often ridiculous but rarely fun.
The film begins in Russia, where Dr. Charles Garrison (played by Peter Coyote, who starts to chew the scenery immediately) working with a couple of black marketers to purchase the surviving canisters of Trioxin, a chemical that can reanimate the dead. The canisters are kept at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where few dare venture. Garrison works for Hybra Tech, a company interested in using the chemical for biological warfare. Garrison begins to experiment with Trioxin, reanimating human limbs and then moving on to reanimate full humans.
Obsessed with his experimentation, Garrison secures more and more human victims from nearby hospitals. Unfortunately, one of the victims turns out to be the friend of his teenaged nephew, whose very parents were killed at Chernobyl. It then falls on Julian Garrison (John Keefe), his young brother and pyro freak Jake Garrison (Alexandru Geoana), and his “army” of teenyboppers to rescue his friend. The group launches a plan for such a rescue, but soon they are over their heads as a zombie outbreak takes place within Hybra Tech, with Julian’s parents now modified as zombie soldiers, complete with buzzsaws and miniguns.
The bulk of the film centers on the teenagers battling the zombies in the confines of Hybra Tech, with the body count escalating along with the cornball meter. The DVD version has some additional blood and guts, but even these sequences are relatively tame, given what the genre is capable of producing.
Given the pedigree of Return of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis is a disappointment. It is neither funny—although Coyote turns in a weird and frenzied performance—or horrifying. The cast is amateur at best, at times even hamming for the camera, and director Ellory Elkayem (Eight Legged Freaks) seems bored with the script, basically moving from scene to scene with a lack of imagination and little flair.
As for the homage component of the film: Yes, the zombies talk (“brain!” and “send more security guards”), but otherwise there is nothing that builds upon the originality of the first one. There are some attempts at humor, but these fall flat (although I did chuckle during the Hybra Tech industrial video) and are soon forgotten.
Those who are still interested in this movie would do well to look for in the bargain bins of retail stores and pharmacies everywhere. I found mine in the dollar bin at Wallgreens, so I picked it up and will throw it into my collection, where it will not be seen again.
Hey, look at it this way: Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis does live up to the original in one way. This movie exemplifies the name of a principal character of the original movie: Trash.