Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 122 minutes
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Not to make this all about me, but sometimes, when you’re rummaging through the “box o’fun” sent to you by the Film Threat staff, you’re never sure what you’re going to get. “Necropolis Awakened” is a perfect example of this. I chose it because it had the word “Necropolis” in the title. Soon after I watched it, I found that everyone else in the world seems to have already discovered this indie zombie gem, leaving me completely out of the loop. Message boards I visited on a regular basis had info galore and praise singing out for this movie. So where the hell was I all this time? All of a sudden, the damn thing is everywhere!
“Necropolis Awakened” is a $10,000 uber-feature shot on DV and spawned from the wilds of Oregon, produced by a trio of brothers. The script and high-octane direction are courtesy of Garrett White, with all other duties relegated to Brandon and (yes, I’m serious) Duke. These three guys pretty much encompass the entire movie, with the latter Whites each tackling a pair of roles and doing the quadruple production duty at the same time.
Since this is a low-budget horror movie, it of course involves zombies. Virtually all debut feature horror films are zombie movies, and that’s one of the reasons America is so great. Everyone with a camcorder can go out and make a reasonably watchable zombie movie, and there are numerous ways to play with the ‘zombies-take-over’ scenario. And the Whites certainly have come up with a story that is both unique and cliché at the same time. I say ‘cliché’, but not in a bad way – you’re still dealing with flesh-eating zombies, after-all, and you’re pretty limited by the monsters’ very natures. At least zombies come with their own shorthand for the audience, so there isn’t too much to understand about how they work.
The small town of Skyhook has been chosen as the new site for the biochemical company Neo-Genentrix, which annoys most of the townsfolk, including their resident alcoholic war-hero, Bob, particularly when he realizes that the town is now filled with the lumbering, rotting undead. When he starts making trouble for the company, particularly their CEO – a surprisingly nasty-looking Clive Barker-esque persona named (yes, I’m serious) Nefarious Thorne – Neo-Genetrix hires a trio of assassins to take Bob out. Um, yeah, I’m not sure why zombies need human hitmen to take out one lone human either, particularly when there are different classes of zombies – including “Proletariat” – capable of speech and increased movement. But after a while, I stopped asking questions.
The movie starts with a high-speed car chase, which is pretty darned impressive in and of itself, and the Whites must have thought so too, as it goes on for about ten minutes. Which is the biggest problem with the movie. Plot holes and hit-or-miss acting aside, the moviemakers’ most grievous miscalculation is that it’s just too long. There are a great number of very impressive set pieces, the car chase just one of the outstanding examples of camera-work, suspense, and high-energy filmmaking. But every single sequence could have been trimmed to flow much better. You can’t fault these guys for the coverage, and it’s strange to even complain about “too much” action, but it does tend to drag things down, as oxymoronic as that may seem.
It would be easy, again, to pick on the script and the acting, but that comes with the indie territory. Garrett’s strengths are obviously in directing, composing and staging of action. And the Oregon scenery is used to a great effect. But he’d be well advised to work with, at least, a co-screenwriter in the future, someone who can tighten dialogue and limit his use of flashbacks – I was getting lost left and right in the story in terms of past or present. The strangest phenomenon to occur in “Necropolis Awakened” deals with Mr. Duke White, who proves to be both the best and worst actor in the movie. As “Bob”, he’s terrific and comes off tough and heroic; as the villainous “Judas”, he’s over-the-top and snarling, his face contorted like he’s trying to pass a tractor.
Overall, the brothers do well with their limited budget, and manage to squeeze a lot of value out of their $10,000. It will most likely end up with a cadre of cultish fans, but it was sort-of designed to be a cult movie anyway. Faults aside, it’s pretty impressive as a whole. If you’re a fan of zombie movies, you’ll find yourself a new favorite movie here.
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Posted on June 29, 2003 in Reviews by Mike Watt
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