The Return of the Living Dead Film Details
Overview: When two bumbling employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to rise again as zombies.
Tagline: They’re Back From The Grave and Ready To Party!
Review: Contains Spoilers!! An absolutely PERFECT blend of horror and comedy. I honestly cannot think of any other film that pulled it off so well. Unlike George Romero’s zombie trilogy, “Return of the Living Dead”, written/directed by Dan O’Bannon, it didn’t take itself seriously. It had FUN. It never dragged, zipping you from one moment of dread to another and when it got too gory or intense, O’Bannon brought in the laughs. Not slapstick but genuine, over-the-top gags. Whether it be a hungry zombie asking to “send more cops” as if he was ordering pizza or the bumbling warehouse employees who, after accidentally releasing a toxic gas that re-animates corpses, find that killing zombies by destroying the brains doesn’t work. When they finally exclaim “WELL IT WORKED IN THE MOVIES!” you know the rules have been thrown out the window. The film works on so many levels of gore and humor and the fact that it makes fun of itself and Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead” come off as more self-aware than Wes Craven’s “Scream” films of the 90’s. The film took it’s chances and could’ve p***ed off fans of Romero’s original by actually referring to that movie within the first few minutes, saying it was all fictional and that “what really happened was…” well you get the idea. In fact, O’ Bannon tried as hard as possible to make his film as different from Romero’s. You see, O’ Bannon’s zombies could RUN after you, could think and plan ways to get at you, they could TALK to you and tell you what part they wanted to eat from you……”BRAINS!” The film was shot on a $4 million dollar budget and had it’s problems with make-up and FX but the wonderful, brisk editing and the gloomy lighting more than covered up it’s technical flaws. You’d be hard pressed to find any obvious goofs. The film’s punk rock soundtrack is excellent. Dare I say “goth punk”? Sure it fit in with the punk characters that got stuck in the horror but the tone of the songs fit in so well with the movie. The cast was superb, all somehow finding the perfect way to play their parts. There isn’t a single ‘off’ performance. Frank’s over-the-top “freaking out”, Burt’s calm “this is what we’re gonna do” attitude and Freddy’s realization of what’s happening to his body and mind all showcase the talent that made the film work. When one of our heroes (who’s been zombiefied) commits suicide by burning himself “alive” in the crematorium….it’s not horrific but truly sad. Actor James Karen embodied ‘Frank’ with such an “every guy” quality, you couldn’t help but feel for him. Thom Mathews played “Freddy”. A new level was added to the zombie genre. We see a young man, full of life with lots of partying left to do, slowly get snuffed out. He was exposed to the gas you see and he’s slowly dying…..yet already dead. He’s conscious while feeling rigor mortis setting in…..and he describes every pain to you. It’s unsettling. Clu Gulager plays the warehouse owner ‘Burt’ (his best friend who owns the funeral home next door? Ernie. Nope, not kidding!) who seemingly dead pans throughout the entire film. While the entire film is going crazy, he is the constant throughout and you feel that if you were in the same situation, you’d want him there helping to make crucial decisions. Linnea Quigley, the “B-movie scream Queen” plays ‘Trash’. Her infamous, FULL FRONTAL strip tease has left many of my fellow 20-something’s with fond memories of their childhood. This film parodied it’s sub-genre of horror YEARS before the crap that was the “Scream” trilogy. It also managed to be FAR scarier than Wes Craven’s poor attempts which basically amounted to a “Boo!” a 9 year old attempts on Halloween. Dan O’Bannon, the film’s writer/director (primarily responsible for the classic “Alien”) created a film that, in every way, perfectly blended horror and humor. I’m not saying it’s the first, I’m saying it’s the first at *doing it right.* The film was released in 1985 and went head-to-head with George Romero’s “Day of the Dead”. “Return” not only got better critical reviews but bested “George the King” at the box office and Romero is considered the best at this type of film. Wrong. Compare such boring trite with O’Bannon’s work and the superior *film* shines through. O’Bannon saw the genre in a way most could not. Treat it’s subject with respect yet realize, this is incredibly silly. O’Bannon’s script is self-aware yet understands it’s fictional world is very real. We get the humor, the film’s characters aren’t so lucky. The film goes the opposite of what you’d expect in such a subtle way. The hapless humans are caged in places normally associated with the dead (a funeral home, a medical supply warehouse) whereas the dead are free to roam around in the land of the living. Subtle. This is NOT a “dumb” film at all (as some uneducated people might mistake “zombie” films for.) It’s an ironic, horrific, campy and witty take on a classic horror genre. A film I can watch over and over again. This classic film will FINALLY be released on DVD in America by MGM Home Video on August 27th, 2002.
Country: United States
Duration: 91 min
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi
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