The Return of the Living Dead (1985) burst its guts on the scene in the 80s as a capsule of current punk trends mixed with gruesome and hilarious zombie effects — aka, a playbook on everything cool.
It was knowing, sharp, witty, and set a new bar for what horror-comedy could achieve.
Four films later, the straight-to-DVD Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave from the Grave (2005) clumsily attempts to transplant the same formula to the early 00’s, this time with rave culture.
As you can imagine, it doesn’t work.
But as the final film of the series, there are still some groans that grumble deep in the back of a zombie throat— a tribute trying to come alive and honor its original. But they’re barely audible, and the series dies for good this time.
D.A.R.E.: Drug Abuse RaveRaveRaveRaveRaveThe only Return of the Living Dead 5 connection to the original series is Trioxin, the deadly gas that spawned the zombies in the original film. Actually, spoiler alert: there’s also a cameo by the series’ hallmark and most-beloved zombie Tarman, in perhaps the only moment that rings true to the original film’s tone.
The kiddos from fourth film in the series Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis have returned and they find out Julian’s uncle Charles (Peter Coyote) has faced sudden zombie death. When Julian (John Keefe) and Jenny (Jenny Mollen) start going through his things, they find the last two barrels of Trioxin. One of their nerdy science friends Cody (Cory Hardrict) tests the chemicals inside the barrels, and Jenny’s brother Jeremy (Cain Mihnea Manoliu) tastes the chemical concoction thinking it’s a hallucinogen. He has a seizure and foams at the mouth — mimicking the normal effects of ecstasy or whatever drug-du-jour clubbers are favouring (Right? Err…yeah right).
So anyway, Cody starts slinging the drug on the street as Z, a pill that gives a zombie-like high. But rather than just take one pill as instructed, kids will be kids and take several, only amplifying the zombie effects just in time for a big Halloween rave. Two survivors from the previous film are the kids’ only hope as they’ve all become brain-dead entities at the rave entirely void of sense of self. Plus, they’re zombies.
Rave Parody: Not Even OnceReturn of the Living Dead 5 is shitty enough that you wouldn’t expect it to deliver on gore, but there are some nice sequences of ear and eye stabbings to occupy the curious. The drug setup isn’t the dumbest one in the book either — it can function as a poignant metaphor for teen drug use, like the short film Rings (2005) — a precursor to The Ring Two (2005) in which teens watch the cursed videotape in order to blog about its psychoactive effects. But campness keeps Return of the Living Dead’s plot from any serious metaphorical advances.
It also doesn’t help that the movie’s creators are dealers in franchise sequel schlock. Writer William Butler penned The Gingerdead Man and its two sequels, and director Ellory Elkayem has helmed such projects as Without a Paddle: Nature’s Calling and Eight Legged Freaks.
Most offensive is the idea that high school students (who are supposed to be college freshmen) are as ravey as the movie portrays. I know there were (and still are) rave kids out there, but for a girl to say her brother is throwing “just another rave” or for someone at said rave to scream “We’re all slaves to the rave!” really comes off as middle-aged men trying to understand the darn hoodlums next door who are so loud on the weekends. I prefer my middle-aged men dealing in real cool, like they did in 1985 (Dan O’Bannon was 39 at the time of the original The Return of the Living Dead). Although I’m nearly 30 years late and looking back, I guarantee no one will be defending ROTLD5 come 2035.
|Buy the film at Amazon.com|
|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|
Written by: Ben Mueller