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Pathfinder Home Entertainment presents
"I'm not part of those sick things in that town, whatever the hell they are."
DVD ReviewOf all the different film genres out there, the horror field probably has more forgettable low-budget entries than just about any other. It's almost a prerequisite, or maybe even a right of passage, depending on your outlook. Over the years I've seen far too many of the forgettable type (they do seem to be the norm), and too few that don't let something like a limited amount of capital prevent a great story from being told in a new and exciting way. Necropolis Awakened, made with a small cast that doubles as the entire production team, is one of those extreme rarities.
The plot concerns a moderately deranged, wild-eyed guy named Bob (Duke White), who is just about the only human left alive in the small remote town of Sky Hook. It seems that an army of the undead have taken over the place, led by the villainous ghoul Nefarious Thorne (Brandon White), a slobbering, drooling, goggle-wearing, rubber-aproned freak with one of the best sissified high-pitch cackles since Margaret Hamilton straddled a broom. It's up to crazy Bob to not only stop Thorne, but to avoid a trio of demented assassins hired to kill him, whose leader is a psychotic control freak named Judas (also played by Duke White, in an almost unrecognizable dual role). Oh, and let's not forget all of the flesh-eating undead wandering around who used to be Bob's neighbors.
Made for a micro-miniscule budget, Necropolis Awakened is literally a family project from writer/director/editor/actor Garrett White (he plays Bob's cousin Tiden, an unwitting accomplice), who is one-third of the crew, along with special effects supervisor/actor Brandon (his brother, who plays Nefarious Thorne) and actor/jack-of-all-trades Duke (their father, and a man with a tour-de-force dual role as Judas and Bob). This is a cheaply made little film, no question about it. But it is a wildly enterprising and clever one, and it has far more exuberance and energy than a lot mainstream horror can manage to muster these days. What Necropolis Awakened lacks in elaborate set dressings and high-grade special effects (or extra cast members, for that matter), it more than makes up for in a lively script that is sprinkled with Tarantino-edged dialogue and weirdly offbeat characters.
It takes a certain type of genre fan to appreciate the low-budget goodness of an outing like Necropolis Awakened, and if you only fancy big, glossy Hollywood horror, then you probably won't really appreciate the slightly over-cranked car chases or the noticeable lack of any more than four or five of the same recurring zombies wandering around on screen. Likewise, the editing gaffes and the occasional cameraman's reflection also just go with the territory of the typical underfunded horror production, and believe me, there are some rough edges evident in the final product.
Those imperfections don't overshadow the thematic bits from The Road Warrior, Pulp Fiction, The Night of the Living Dead, and Gladiator that are mixed in liberally here, and when they are all combined together, the result is a fun bit of spirited indie horror that could teach a thing or two to the big boys about how to tell a story.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Necropolis Awakened comes delivered from Pathfinder in what appears to be a nonanamorphic 1.85:1 transfer (though the aspect ratio isn't indicated definitively on the packaging, it is nonanamorphic). Colors are muted, and image detail is generally a little soft and blurry in spots, but the transfer remains consistent throughout; though the film was shot on digital video the whole presentation has a "film" look to it. For such an extremely low-budget project, the transfer is fairly solid all the way around.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The weak link in the armor of this release is the flat 2.0 stereo audio track, which often clips and distorts during loud moments of dialogue (which in this film is a lot). Not that I really think I missed anything critical during these sometimes inaudible passages, but I did find myself constantly fiddling with my remote to raise and lower the volume accordingly.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Duke White, Garrett White, Brandon White
The three White's provide a full-length, scene-specific commentary track, too, and while not constantly riveting or insightful, it is a fun listen. In between revealing some of the cheap shortcuts they had to endure, they confess to using real weapons in many of the scenes and even point a couple of moments when a stuffed dummy was used onscreen because there just weren't enough people to go around.
There are also four Deleted Scenes (a total runtime of 23m:01s) that provide more backstory to Bob's involvement with Thorne, and the gem of the bunch wraps with a great bit of dialogue between Bob and Tiden about whether the undead are eating or simply helping someone. It's a hoot.
Monster: A Modern Re-Telling of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (25m:21s) is a 2001 production from Team White, and as the title implies, it is a vague variation on a familiar theme. In this telling, the main characters are a couple of violent, escaped prisoners, and plenty of blood, guts, and gore figure into what is a solidly creepy vibe throughout. Darker and less fun than Necropolis Awakened, Monster makes the most of its 25-minute runtime.
The disc, which also features a photo gallery, theatrical trailer and biographies, is cut into 18 chapters, and does not contain any subtitles.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsHere's a flick that has managed to raise the bar for low-budget indie horror, and the family filmmaking team of Garrett, Duke, and Brandon White are its (as of yet) unsung heroes. It is pretty rare when a genre title can dish out this much dark humor and clever writing in one package, but Necropolis Awakened has really nailed it.
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