Horror / Comedy
Trivia Tobe Hooper was originally slated to direct and it was supposed to be filmed in 3-D.
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The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
11th Jun 12
When a bumbling pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to return to the living (dead).
At the time of writing, a sci-fi horror blockbuster with proper actors and everything called Prometheus has just come out amid no small amount of anticipation largely because of director Ridley Scott exploring a distant root to the mythology of the undisputed classic Alien. It therefore seems incredibly apt that this summer would also see the Blu-ray bow for the directorial debut of the man Alien owes its very chestation (I kill me!). The crazy thing is the co-founding father of this most serious and genuinely prestige of frighteners went for a zombie comedy. And even crazier still it is quite possibly the greatest of its kind.
The Return Of The Living Dead effortlessly gives any Evil Dead, early-Peter-Jackson-good-one or Creepshow-entry a run for its funny money and that’s because writer-director Dan O’Bannon, a mad genius of many arts, cooks up a wonderfully told joke of a movie with an ever chaotic situation soaked in gore and one of the finest ensembles in horror.
On his first day at a medical supply warehouse rookie Freddy (Thom Matthews AKA heroic Tommy Jarvis V.3 from Jason Lives) and is shown the ropes by anecdote happy old timer Frank (James Karen who’s in every film you’ve ever seen).
While explaining the history of a mysterious army canister and how it relates to the “true” story on which Night Of The Living Dead was based, Frank pulls quite possibly the most ill-judged visual aid to storytelling ever by giving the massive tin-can a smack on the side unleashing powerful gas that brings EVERY dead thing back to life.
To show just how effective this reagent is, among the first undead beneficiaries the duo encounter is a dog that has been split down the middle and mounted. As Frank, Freddy and their boss Burt (the amazing Clu Gulager) make an utter pig’s arse of a bad situation and inadvertently give the graveyard next door (natch) a huge wake-up call, Freddy’s girlfriend and somewhat eclectic band of punk friends choose to party down in said place of rest. An unfortunate choice of venue I’m sure you will agree. Especially when these undead really like “BRAAAAAAIIIINS!!!!”.
The cast is full of scene-stealers but somehow nobody hogs the limelight, and making a literally doomed double act like Freddy and Frank the central characters is a stroke of balancing act genius. No one outstays their welcome in this film and the biggest problem for anyone viewing will be trying to work out what you love most about this unbelievably fun movie.
Is it the most sympathetic Nazi sympathizer to have graced the silver screen in the shape of dark eyed legendary character actor Don Calfa? Is it the fabulous cause and effect machine of ever chaotic carnage offered by an insane yet logical plot? Is it the utterly daft and endearingly comic booky design of the punks or the (surely Savini-worrying) EC comes to life make-up effects for the munch happy antagonists? Is it the fact that these zombies can talk, plot, run and yet still feel like proper salt of the earth maggot gatherers? Is it the inclusion of easily the most naked zombie of all time in the form of veteran flasher Linnea Quigley? Is it the awesomesauce soundtrack (finally complete on home video after years of rights fights) featuring The Damned, The Cramps and appropriately The Flesh-Eaters?
There’s great fun to be had with the then 50-year-old director’s sweetly sarcastic interpretation of punk culture, something which could’ve hurt the film but O’Bannon uses this to his advantage and it adds to the whole film feeling like a superbly told dry anecdote. And one that packs a dark but joyous punchline.
While nowhere near as highly regarded as Alien, The Return Of The Living Dead is probably every bit as perfect within its chosen field and this Blu-ray release from Second Sight is worthy of a classic. The film has never looked or sounded better (its not quite up there with Arrow’s Dawn of the Dead release but it's darn close), the feature length doc More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead is worth the price tag alone, you get a wealth of featurettes and interviews, a three minute version of the movie and more, more, more! It’s a stunning package and one of the best releases the Blu-ray format has seen thus far.
It’s one of the funnest if not the funnest horror movie ever made and if you have not seen The Return Of The Living Dead then please fork out for the most satisfying blind-buy you’ll ever make. If you have seen it then rest assured a fitting release has finally come to the late great O’Bannon’s hilarious masterpiece. If you’ve seen it and DON’T want to buy it then you must be dead already. This film has absolutely everything you want from a zombie-comedy. It also features Miguel A. Núñez Jr. AKA Demon from Friday the 13th Part V AKA the dude who likes to sing “Oo-ooh, baby. Ooh, baby” to his girlfriend while taking a shit. Awesome. And did I mention Linnea Quigley is really really naked in this?