The year: 2005. The place: the Sci-Fi Channel. The film: Return of the Living Dead 4. Yeah, this cable channel bought up two movies designed to be sequels to Dan O'Bannon's cult classic film The Return of the Living Dead. Fun side-question: what happened to the 'the' in the title? The first film has it, but every sequel omits the word. Anyhow, this film was made over ten years after the last one and has no returning cast members. Show of hands: anyone surprised by this? Instead, we get a tale that feels similar in many ways to Part III, but also does it own thing. Is the movie good? Find out in my undead review of...
The film begins with a long montage talking about a fake Haliburton-style company. In a very off-hand manner, they address zombie outbreaks over the years and how they were put down. We're just going to gloss over that bit, huh? Jumping to the present, Peter Coyote and two Russian stereotypes go to Chernobyl. Come for the view, stay for the cancer! The bottom line: a few canisters of zombies are around, but the rest have been destroyed. Hey guys, you recall in the last film how they explain that the zombies can't really be killed and only contained? No, okay then. For no clear reason, we see a car crash, followed by our protagonist waking up. Could you go ahead and stop reminding me of Wishmaster 3 please? Coyote is apparently running the house and the two boys' parents are dead. We cut to our hero going to school and meeting his friends. They include 'Final Girl,' Nerdy Girl, Slutty Girl, Vaguely-Foreign Boy, Jerk Boy and Black Kid. There is drama in the group as final girl broke up with jerk boy and has feelings for our hero. Rather than showing us the school day, we are instead shown them going out to a rocky field to do stunts on their bikes. One of them crashes and is taken away...to die!
Eventually, our heroes figure out that something is up. The evil company- whom Coyote works for- are taking bodies for their experiments with zombies. How do they find out? As it turns out, Final Girl works as at the company and sees him being wheeled in. What a small world- a small, badly-written world! To compound the stupidity, we get a montage of the group getting ready which is accompanied by the song 'I Stand Alone!' They break into the massive corporation's offices by riding their BMX bikes through the sewer tunnels that apparently connect to the building. Poor design or bad writing- you decide! En route, one of them crashes for no reason, which requires them all to stop and get attacked by some zombie bums. The film makes a point about how they must all be shot in the head, which is not exactly a staple of this series. They find a door already opened and learn that our hero's younger brother managed to sneak in ahead of them. We also get a scene where Final Girl uses Slutty Girl to lure the one guard watching the video screens away with sex. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen! They manage to confront Coyote and question him. When pressed about the reason for zombie revivals. His answer- to take over the world, of course. *Sigh*
In the third act of the film, we finally get a ton of zombies and shooting! Of course, the film only sticks to the 'only head-shots kill them' rule when they feel like it! The creatures escape and all hell breaks loose. Coyote runs off and activates the zombie-soldier forms of our hero's parents. By the way, he brought mom and dad back as the Borg Queen and Nemesis, respectively. We get a lot of random kills- bye little kid- and lots of dead zombies. Highlights include Vaguely-Foreign Guy getting killed three feet from safety and about sixty extras doing the 'zombie dance' when shot. Jerk Guy is turned into a zombie and decides to get revenge on our hero for wanting to be with his lady. He does this by killing the brother and facing off with him in a fight. Nemesis Dad shoots up a Hummer, but gets taken out by a Deus Ex Machina in the form of a S.W.A.T. Team. Who called them? Good question. Why do they have a freaking tank?!? Another good question. Anyhow, all of the main zombies are killed and a few of our heroes live. In an Epilogue, a News Anchor talks about the recently suppressed-zombie outbreak and goes to change topics when he is killed by another zombie. Um, where did he come from? Oh yeah, we also get the title screen at the very end of the movie!
This movie is really not that good, but you could do worse. It's not exactly a compliment to say that the film is better than some of the truly shitty zombie films thrown out there though. Congratulations, movie- you were a little better than Die, You Zombie Bastards! The zombies look alright and we get lots of shooting on-screen. The whole execution is pretty flawed though, as it relies on some major jumps in logic to really work. What major conglomerate hires a 17-year old to work in their Security Offices again? The acting is pretty bad, but at least some of them (mainly Coyote) have fun with it. The man is written like the most cliched villains of all time and is just a mustache-twirling scene away from being Snidely Whiplash! To the film's credit, they do expand a bit upon the 'weapon-izing zombies' plot from Return of the Living Dead III. However, it also ignores some of the more interesting and unique aspects (the zombie virus being something that could be somewhat resisted) and just goes for the cliches. Thanks, Sci-Fi Channel- you're always good for those!