This one was a pleasant surprise, referred to me by Mike Lombardo of Reel Splatter Productions as an example of high-concept filmmaking on a shoestring budget (and a frazzled shoestring, at that). NECROPOLIS AWAKENED is a 2002 shot-on-video feature from writer/director Garrett White that certainly wants to do more than the average DIY production, and while I found the end result lacking White definitely deserves an A for effort.
An action-oriented zombie film, NECROPOLIS concerns Nefarious Thorne, a goggle-wearing baddie with a mouthful of nasty teeth, and his plot to take over the small town of Skyhook. As the local population is steadily turned into zombies (not that big a task when the town has all of eight people) the last surviving human must fight to send the dead back into the ground.
The superior technical quality of this film is apparent right from the start, with top-notch photography and editing that's better than most micro-budget flicks. White even kick-starts the action with a car chase/crash that for once didn't have me bellowing with laughter, and maintains higher-scale set-pieces up to a rousing climax. Nor does the gore disappoint, featuring a face-removal by tire that ranks among the best no-budget effects in recent memory. That White was able to pull of a movie of this scope at all is pretty amazing, yet he managed this feat with a very small crew of friends and family and a cast of only five people. (The acting is particularly strong, especially considering most of the actors are playing multiple roles; the stand-out is easily Duke White, who plays sole survivor Bob and human villain Judas, turning in a hilariously deranged performance as the latter without edging into camp or parody.)
If NECROPOLIS AWAKENED has any problems, they lie in a rather shaky screenplay that constantly undermines White's technical savvy. While the dialogue isn't as clunky or tone-deaf as most indie films, many of the conversations are strained, and it often isn't clear what's going on. It also fails to find just the right pace, taking the time for small, quiet moments for its characters (which I don't mind) but never quite moving the story at the right tempo. It's never as engaging as it ought to be.
With a better script this could've been an under-the-radar classic, but despite being well-made it still doesn't cut it. Though I wouldn't give it more than a C+, I can't wait to see what White has up his sleeve next.