BRAAAAAAIIIIIINNNNNSSSS!!! Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave
Time to expand on my new Return of the Living Dead hypothesis. I think it’s kind of anti-Star Trek. The theory goes with Star Trek that only the even numbered ones are any good (I heartily dispute this regarding part 4: Save the Whales), and Return of the Living Dead is the opposite. So far, 1 is gold, 2 is garbage, 3 is Silver, 4 is utter garbage. So presumably, following on, 5 (Rave to the Grave) will also therefore win a medal of some description, possibly a bronze. Well, no, it’s not that good. However it did at least make the final and hasn’t embarrassed itself in any way. For a start, it does actually resemble a Return of the Living Dead film, and while I hate the central character Julian (John Keefe from Part 4) the presence of gore, comedy and nudity automatically raise it above the quite filthy depths that Necropolis had sunk the series to.
This is a Return of the Living Dead film, so nudity, gore, laughs and Spoilers lurk below.
The omens for this one weren’t good actually. Necropolis was such a rancid barrel of honk, and this one was shot back to back with mostly the same cast, crew and cheap mentality. Really, Return of the Living Dead Rave to the Grave is far, far better than it has any right being. It’s not great, to be honest, but it does at least feel like a proper Return of the Living Dead film, and there are no rejects from Resident Evil lurking around to annoy me.
Carrying straight on from where Necropolis finished off, Return of the Living Dead Rave to the Grave (hereby known as RotLD5 because I’m not typing that out every time) opens with Uncle Charlie (Peter Coyote) trying to sell a barrel of Trioxin that he stole at the end of the last film to make enough cash to leg it. Understandably, the two shady Russians aren’t so keen on this, without proof, so Charlie reanimates a couple of corpses. Who then eat him. Needless to say, our shady agents put a couple of bullets in everyone, thereby cleaning up the mess.
In the meantime, we cut to A.N.College anywhere to catch up with the antics of our survivors from the last film. Julian has a new girlfriend Jenny (Jenny Mollen) and doesn’t seem to be too cut up about the demise of Katie in the last film. Possibly this is because every single character in the film has a serious dose of amnesia and has forgotten the zombie carnage of, er, 12 months ago. He finds three barrels of Trioxin in his parent’s basement, and takes them to Cody (Cory Hardrict) and Becky (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick) for analysis. Accompanying him is Jenny’s dickhead brother Jeremy. Cody performs an analysis on the Trioxin and discovers that it has a similar chemical makeup to MDMA. Upon this revelation, Jeremy does what every sentient being does when confronted with chemicals from a rotten 1970’s barrel: he takes some.
The chemical induces a high, and behind Julian’s back Cody, Jeremy and local scumbag dealer “Skeet” (Catalin Paraschiv) synthesise it and go into business selling it as “Z” to the moron student population. There is, unfortunately, one serious side effect of this: take too much and it turns you into a reanimated corpse with a craving for rotting brains. Next thing you know, the zombies are on the loose, poor old Becky and her boyfriend Artie are infected and things have gone completely tits up.
Jenny has spiked the lab rats water with the Trioxin, much to the annoyance of head lab douche Brett, and many of those that swallowed the Z like Smarties begin to morph into monsters with a brain fetish. Given the clear low level intellects on display here they’d have more luck in the offal section of the local supermarket, but never mind. So, the shady Eurotrash Gino (Sorin Cocis) and Aldo (Claudiu Bleonţ) return, and the rave goes ahead with disastrous consequences. Cue massacre, and the film ending with Tarman standing on the freeway trying to hitch-hike with a “Rave or Bust” sign.
This is not, by any stretch of the imagination a cinematic masterpiece. The acting is shit, again, and the writing relies on the characters being absolute fucking imbeciles. Seriously, Jeremy voluntarily takes a swig of toxic waste- even the most extreme example of ambulatory root vegetable out there wouldn’t do something like that. Not to mention that the climax of the film at the rave relies purely on Jenny ignoring all evidence in front of her and trying to find Jeremy to “save” him from Trioxin poisoning and a mild case of zombie-itis. What cobblers.
However, there script does supply some absolute gems of comedy. The first is the scene just after Becky’s infection. She’s sitting in the car with Artie and starts to enthusiastically perform oral sex on him. Before the inevitable gelding by Zombie happens, Artie brilliantly exclaims “Damn! Usually I don’t get none of that unless I take you to Olive Garden!” What a great line, and I did howl with laughter. Other gags, such as the infected rat “Mr. Stinky” and Brett the vegetarian douchebag aren’t anywhere near as successful, but it is at least trying.
As mentioned it does feel like a Return of the Living Dead film (Hallelujah). The presence of Tarman no doubt helps this, but what helps more is that the film isn’t shy about utterly gratuitous nudity, buckets of gore and cheap laughs. Again, the gunshot splatter works well, and the zombies chomp away with some enthusiasm, which supplies the necessary gore. However, where it wins over Necropolis is with the utterly gratuitous nudity. Within the second major scene the female minor cast members have decided to get their tits out, and there’s a cheap gag at the rave where the two clean up crew steal women’s costumes. Which naturally prompts the naked women to appear and complain that “they stole our costumes”. Well done, dudes, this is exactly the kind of silliness that should be in a RotLD film.
As mentioned above, the laughs are supplied by the odd cheeky line, but what I haven’t mentioned is the comedy Russian hitmen are absolutely hilarious. There’s a cracking scene where Aldo accidentally shoots a cheerleader and says “my bad” afterwards, and I love the donut exchange just before the rave begins. While not as anarchic and gleefully amusing as the first film, it does at least try and I give it props for that.
Nevertheless, it’s heavily, heavily flawed. Julian is a moron, and an annoying one at that, and the script is riddled with inconsistencies such as he seems to have totally forgotten what a backstabbing weasel arsehole his beloved Uncle Charlie was. This is annoying. Furthermore, Jeremy is such an unlikable and colossally stupid twat that I would happily put a bullet in his head regardless of whether he’s a zombie or not. Not to mention that Cody’s character fluctuates all over the place, and by the climax of the film I was also cheering for him to die.
Before I sign off, there are two other cardinal sins the film makes. The first is the rave itself. A significant proportion of this is shot with strobe lighting, which, well, doesn’t work in the slightest and was giving me a mild headache. It’s almost impossible to film raves/ clubs properly, and the number of films that have managed to do it successfully is tiny. Aside from Human Traffic, I struggle to think of another well filmed one. Secondly, and more annoyingly, for the millionth fucking time: YOU CANNOT FIST FIGHT ZOMBIES. The undead are not known for their adherence to the Queensberry Rules, so, film-makers kindly never, ever, ever, do this again. It’s highly aggravating.
Overall, this is a vast improvement from Necropolis, even if it is light years away from the quality of part 3, let alone the original. It’s not entirely hateful, and there are some laughs to be had, but it is still heavily flawed. I’m going to give it a pass, but it’s by the narrowest of margins, and I’ve got a feeling I’m being generous due to the stench of its predecessor still lingering around.
Now, part 6, please, someone, and let’s take it back to the quality we know is in the series.
Until next time,