[Review] 'Necropolis: Legion' attempts to build on the dead, but tramples them instead
For every film fan there is a widely unknown movie that defined their childhood. Everybody loves Aliens, Jaws, and Star Wars, but for all film fans there was that one, unknown gem that nobody else had ever seen. The fan would rent the film over and over again and even reenact scenes from memory...
...Maybe it sucked (it probably sucked), but while watching the movie, they found themselves drawn into a world that seemed to be built expressly for their taste. For me, that film was 1986’s Eliminators. It is a low-budget The Terminator knock off with a ninja, a hot scientist, and a dirty river boat captain. It’s bad. Please do not watch it.
For others, it is possible that the movie that meant so much to them is 1987’s Necropolis. The Empire Pictures film definitely happened. Was it any good? No. Did some people end up watching it on VHS and cable? Sure. Is this the final sentence in this paragraph that will end with a question? It was. The original Necropolis is about as 1980’s as a film could get. It is covered in leather, praises Satan, and has hair so teased it seemed like it was going to need a therapist. Necropolis follows an undead and evil priestess as she causes havoc in the modern world. 33 years after the original was unleashed, Necropolis: Legion has come into being. Much like its predecessor, not much can be said about this film aside from the fact that it absolutely exists.
Directed by Chris Alexander and written by Alexander and Brockton McKinney, Necropolis: Legion is a modern reimagining of the 1987 film with almost nothing in common with the original. The evil priestess has the same name in both films but she barely shows up in the update. We see her in the film's prologue and then, somewhere around the midpoint, she possesses the body of a writer and slinks around for a while. She shows up again at the end but the focus, spirit, and intent of this film is completely different from the original. Having seen Necropolis: Legion, I am very much wondering why Alexander even bothered licensing the name of the original. '87's Necropolis is far from having a cult following that would recognize the Intellectual Property and be excited by the idea of a "reimagining." There are far more differences between the films than similarities. In a film that is rife with moments that make the viewer wonder why anything is happening, this underlying question is the most confusing.
The overall plot of Necropolis: Legion is a simple one. Sometime in the past, a God fearing man named Maynard (Joseph Lopez) killed the evil priestess named Eva (Ali Chappell). But she did not truly die for as her strange breasts suggest, she is more than human. You see, her breasts have mouths where her nipples should be. There was a kid at my elementary school who would draw stuff like that on the inside of his books but the intent here is more than mere juvenile grossout humor because Eva's breast beasts suck the life out of people. It is a somewhat interesting inversion of the symbolism of the female nipple. And, yes, I suppose it is also very juvenile and intended to shock and maybe offend.
In the modern day, non-fiction author Lisa (Augie Duke) decides to stay in Maynard's long abandoned home to do some research for her next book. After being warned of the dangers in that home by Zia (Lynn Lowery from The Crazies), the crazed local something or other, Lisa heads inside to do some writing. Although Maynard's small cabin has been abandoned for possibly centuries, it looks almost exactly as it did in the film's prologue. I wish I could imagine that this is due to some magical force but we are forced to assume that it is because there was no budget to age the set. Or maybe there just was no interest in doing so. Whatever the case may be, the result is that the film just does not seem to take itself very seriously. The lack of care, funds, or even effort pervades the film and makes watching its mercifully short run into a struggle.
During her second day in the cabin, Lisa accidentally cuts her foot on a wine glass that she very absentmindedly left broken on the floor from the night before. Lisa's blood drips through the floorboards and onto the thirsty soil beneath the cabin. This brings Evil Eva back to life… somehow. Eva possesses Lisa and then… not a lot happens. While the original film had Eva tooling around on a motorcycle and feeding off the souls of New York City's most vulnerable citizens (the homeless, sex workers, drug users… etc.) this film has Eva/Lisa mostly hanging out and acting a little weird. There is no momentum and no sense of urgency to anything. When a character arrives to kill Eva, the viewer is so tired of the film and so very ready for it to end that they almost do not even take the time to ask where our monster slayer even came from.
Necropolis: Legion fails as a film in almost every possible way. It is cheap without being charming, exploitative without being exciting, and derivative without being reverential. The film is shot poorly. The visual effects all seem to be directly out of iMovie's effects panel, and the writing is too dull to even be confusing. Motivations, events, and what plot points that are present are all presented rather than earned or explained.
Necropolis: Legion commits the greatest sin a movie can make--it is boring from beginning to end. I do not love or even like the original, but it deserves better than this. Necropolis is wacky, strange, and has performances by actors who, while incompetent, are at least swinging for the fences. This "re-imagining" is uneventful and featureless and not worth the hour that it asks of you.
Necropolis: Legion raises the dead on Amazon Prime December 2nd through Full Moon Features.
By Mark Gonzales
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