Lionsgate // 2005 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 20th, 2007
Dance 'til You Drop...Dead
The living dead are back at it, eating brains, drooling pus and being generally disruptive. This time their prey is a flock of annoying college kids. Bon appetit!
You know what goes great together? Ecstasy and zombies! Well, Lionsgate has recognized the potential of this pairing and vomited forth this distant sequel in the "Living Dead" series.
A scientist (Peter Coyote in a vanishingly small role) has corralled three barrels of a volatile chemical that will reanimate the dead and infuse them with ravenous brain hunger. Two shifty guys who may or may not be government agents try to secure the fluid, but before they can grab it all and prevent zombie-mania, Julian Garrison (John Keefe), the aforementioned scientist's nephew, finds the remaining barrels, and his idiot college buddies discover the hallucinatory potential of the stuff.
Before the zombie truth is known, the toxin has been turned into ecstasy pills and handed out to gullible kids. Shortly thereafter, the undead hordes break free and start feasting on grey matter, leaving Julian and his girlfriend Becky (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick) to repel the invading menace.
The biggest thing this mediocre zombie flick has going against it is its title. The "Living Dead" lineage is obviously quite far-reaching, so there will always be a frame of reference to measure the sequels against. If this movie was just called Rave to the Grave or College Zombie Death Killing or anything minus the "Return of the Living Dead" verbiage, I think it could be looked at as a half-decent -- though half-baked -- excursion into undead carnage. But because it's been made into canon, there's a certain pedigree demanded of the film, and to that effect -- besides an appearance by the Tar Man -- Rave to the Grave becomes dispensable.
On the flip side, the film doesn't take itself seriously, and that works in its favor. The government agents tasked with corralling the zombie threat are goofballs, and even go so far as dressing up as Viking women for no other reason than a) it's Halloween-themed rave, and b) um, the writers though it would be funny to dress them up as Viking women? The dialogue fluctuates between flirting-with-clever and painful and, to be honest, the cleverest lines are the oft-repeated "Brains!" grunt that the zombies issue before taking a king-sized bite out of some poor sap's skull. The characters don't offer much genre enthusiasts haven't seen before: the motivated hero that no one listens to until it's too late, the perky blonde with the low-cut blouse and a kick-butt attitude, the plucky comic relief who is neither comical nor relieving, and "smart exposition guy." Thankfully, the writers are kind enough to kill off the irritating characters and leave the tolerable ones intact (that does include the blonde, thank you).
Violence-wise, there is a satisfactory amount of gore to keep the proceedings lively. Lots of forced lobotomies, some decapitations, a few severed limbs and more gunshot wounds than you can shake a stick at. The bloodshed is tongue-in-cheek, though, so don't expect a disturbing, hard-R edge to the mayhem. Supplementing the blood-letting is sporadic nudity, which is a pre-requisite for any rave film I guess.
Finally, let's end on what is the worst part of the film: the story. The plot is so simplistic and stupid it almost besmirches the term "zombie movie storyline." Cans of goo? Ecstasy pills that turn college kids into undead lunatics? And, um, that's it. The buildup points toward the finale at the big Halloween rave, which reveals the threadbare narrative as merely a way to string the occasional zombie kill together in a semblance of forward progression until the big party at the end where the make-up and gore effects guys can go hog-wild.
The video and audio quality is fine, with the film getting the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/2.0 stereo treatment to decent effect (read: the blood is very red). No extras.
The movie's dumb and pointless, but there is a lot of gore and the self-deprecating sense of humor helps mitigate the pain of a low-end plot.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R