Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave (2005)

roltd51With a title like this, how can you not want to watch this little gem? This last installment in the Return of the Living Dead series provides one with all the basic fodder needed for a spoof of zombie flicks: simple plot, horrific acting, completely unnecessary characters, and lots of disgusting gore! All this combined with more stereotypical clichés about raves you can handle.

The basic premise is easier to understand if you’ve ever seen the original Return of the Living Dead (1985). In the first film, a strange canister arrives at the local medical-supply warehouse with the ominous words “Property of the Army” stenciled on the side (because we all know this is how military items are labeled). Inside is a corpse floating in some crazy toxic-looking substance. The owner of the warehouse, insisting on the solidity of the canister, hits it to prove his point. Gaseous fumes erupt, and promptly turn the dead into brain-craving zombies! Usual zombie terror ensues, people get killed, brains get eaten, and because I don’t want to wreck the movie for you, eventually things get taken care of. Or do they?

Fast-forward to 2005. College students Julian (John Keefe) and his girlfriend Jenny (Jenny Mollen) find a few of these canisters left over after Julian’s uncle Charles (Peter Coyote)  passes away under very unfortunate (and evil) circumstances that also involve Aldo & Gino (Claudiu Bleont & Sorin Cocis), two Russian/Italian/New Yorker mob/mafia members . They promptly haul the canister to their friend Cody (Cory Hardrict), who seems to be a chemistry major…he likes to play around in labs and such. zr_rotld5_2005_021Cody discovers that the toxic substance is a derivative of the drug Ecstasy. Upon hearing this, Jenny’s craaazy DJ brother Jeremy (Cain Mihnea Manoliu) decides to take a hit to see if it will get him high…because we all know DJs do nothing but spin records and do drugs. Nothing happens at first, and then he begins to have a seizure which would make any normal person get a major neck injury, before ‘tripping out’ for about 10 seconds. After that, he is back to normal. Cody and Jeremy immediately realize the potential profit they could be making on this new found drug. Julian and Jenny are totally against drugs – and this idea – so Cody and Jeremy begin to process it behind their backs. I’m not entirely sure how they manage to crystallize it and get it into capsules, but I’m sure it’s all very scientific. After all, they had beakers, Bunsen burners, and techno-music driven montage.

They soon begin selling it with the help of Skeet (Catalin Paraschiv), a slimy drug dealer who wears a black trenchcoat with all kinds of drugs hanging inside, like the ‘letter dealer’ on Sesame Street. The new drug – ‘Z’ – instantly becomes a hit among the college students, and Cody and Jeremy are rolling in the dough! However, some of the students don’t heed Skeet’s warning to only take one at a time…instead downing 4 in one go, and then the fun begins.

300_60964Apparently, overdose or overuse of ‘Z’ causes people to become zombies who are only after one thing: brains. Julian and Jenny find out too late that their cohorts are secretly selling the drug, by way of an awesome zombie/human battle in the school lab, which begins with the introduction of zombie-fied rats. The two mafia guys – who are after this canister for reasons unknown – save the day by basically gunning down all the zombies in the schoolyard (and a few humans too). Julian and Jenny confiscate the rest of the drugs from Cody and Jeremy, but don’t realize that Skeet has a whole bunch he is trying to sell. And the best place to sell them is at the Halloween rave that Jeremy is throwing that weekend!

After a painstakingly long montage of Jeremy and his pals setting up the rave, Julian and Jenny realize that there are more hits of Z to be had and, with their new-found mob friends, head to the rave to try and stop it. Of course, they are too late.125353__rave_l As Julian, Jenny, and the mob guys try to find Skeet they witness more and more ravers begin to turn around and chomp their buddies’ heads. One wonderful incident takes place in the middle of a day-glo painted room, where we can’t even tell who’s a zombie or not. Jenny finds out that Jeremy has also turned into a zombie due to his constant use of the drug, and there is a heartwrenching scene in which she has to decide between seeing her loving boyfriend’s brains eaten by her brother, or shooting her brother in the head. Wonder which one she picked?

Somehow, the US Army gets involved with helicopters and guns, and they eventually save the day with a big ol’ US missile. Julian and Jenny somehow manage to escape unharmed, and walk away with one of the mob guys (the other one was presumably killed in the blast). The end. Or is it? Keep your eyes peeled for the hitchhiking zombie!

I love zombie movies, especially the really crappy, campy ones. But this one definitely takes the cake for the worst acting, thinnest plotline, most story holes, crappiest clichés, and worst soundtrack. All of the actors sound as though they’re reading off cue cards, and at times when you see their eyes stray to one side, I’m pretty sure they are. I am still unsure why the mob/mafia guys were there in the first place, except maybe to provide some firepower and comedic relief (when one of them accidentally shoots a human cheerleader he says, “My bad,” and shrugs). The way their accents slipped from Russian to Italian to New Yorker all in one sentence is really something. Jeremy the craaaazy DJ is probably the worst cliché ever. He lives only to party, talks in rhymes, wears all kinds of crazy clothes, and of course he is the first person to try the newest drug. He also seems to have the superhuman skills to be able to DJ even as a zombie, and why not? …he seems to be the only person DJing at this event. What’s even better is when he gets thrown through a window (abandoning his tables) the music stops…then miraculously begins playing again…even though there’s no one in the booth. A ghost, perhaps..or maybe Jeremy had the chance to switch it to ‘Auto’ before being thrown out the window. I won’t even get into the ‘techno’ music being played throughout the rave: a combination of awful midi-ed out techno crap mixed with piano-driven trance that sounds like it was made in 1989. It’s the never-ending mix from hell.

On the plus side, there is an obvious message to this movie: drUgZ R bAd! Taking drugs for recreation can only do bad things to you, and taking mass quantities can certainly speed up the negative effects…like turning you into a zombie. Raves can be bad for you too: when Julian and Jenny are searching throughout the rave for the evil drug dealer they must wade through throngs of dancing ravers who are almost zombie-like themselves, oblivious to everything…even to the fact that the person beside them just got his head eaten away. Maybe if they weren’t so oblivious they wouldn’t have been eaten, hmmm?

All in all, a horrific waste of film. Unless, of course, you really enjoy stupid zombie movies like I do…then it’s merely a slightly horrific waste of film.  I see Julian is actually reprising a role from Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis.  I think it’s time I pick that up now.  In fact, I think I’ll watch the entire series, backwards!

Wait for it…

zombieraverThis little guy never made it. :(

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