Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

The Return of the Living Dead (USA, 1985) - Color, Director(s): Dan O'Bannon
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 15]
Approx. 91 min.

Z-rating: 4 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 4 stars out of 5

As important and influential as Romero's zombie films were, there was another integral film that contributed to the zombie mythos. If you asked a random person on the street what zombies eat, they'll most likely tell you zombies eat brains. In Romero's movies, the zombies were cannibals that ate any piece of flesh they could get their hands on. Dan O'Bannon's black comedy/zombie horror was the first movie to introduce the concept of zombies eating brains.

Thom Matthews (Tommy from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives) plays Freddy, a new employee at a medical supply company. The foreman, Frank, tells him that Night of the Living Dead was based on true events and they have one of the bodies in the basement. The Darrow Chemical Company was developing a chemical for the army called 245-Trioxin that they sprayed on marijuana or something. There was a spill and the chemical seeped into the morgue, bringing bodies back to life. Due to a shipping error, this medical supply company received one of the bodies instead of The Darrow Chemical Company. Frank brings him down into the basement to show him the body and accidentally punctures the barrel, releasing a gas that permeates the warehouse and knocks the two of them unconscious.


Cue intro credits and one of the most awesome opening themes ever. The music is one of the best things in 80's movies. Here, have a listen for yourself.

The gas brings all the dead things in the medical supply warehouse back to life, including a cadaver that was hanging in the freezer. They call the owner, played by Clu Gulager (the hilarious Bartender from the Feast franchise), to help them figure out what to do. They try destroying the brain but when that doesn't work, they chop the cadaver into bits and take it to the morgue down the street to be cremated. This proves to be a huge mistake as the cremation process releases a cloud of Trioxin into the air which rains back down onto the cemetery, seeps into the dirt, and reanimates all the bodies in the graves. Freddy's friends, a group of punks that were waiting to pick him up from work, are now caught in the middle of this nightmare. Linnea Quigley plays the red-haired Trash and Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning) are part of the group of punks.

"What do you think this is all about, you think this is a fucking costume? This is a way of life!"

Nudity: Linnea Quigley does a fully nude dance on a tomb. The director thought it would be too graphic to show her vulva so they created a prosthetic one to cover it up and her look smooth like a Barbie doll. 

Gore: Dead bodies and rotting corpses in various stages of decay, brains being eaten, zombies biting into people's skulls. There's plenty of blood but not much viscera, these aren't the cannibalistic zombies that will eat your insides. They specifically eat brains, so there's a lot of blood spray.

Awesome: to the MAX! The soundtrack featured deathrock and punk rock bands of the time. The movie manages to be hilarious without having to cross over into parody territory. Frank freaking out after they accidentally release the gas and bring everything in the warehouse back to life makes the situation so much funnier. Then there's the scene where they're planning to unlock the freezer and have Frank shove a pickaxe through the zombie's head but suddenly the butt-naked cadaver bursts out of the door and barrels towards Clu Gulager instead. That whole scene is an absolute riot. As for the zombies themselves, they're different and more dangerous than Romero zombies. They're smart, they talk, and destroying their brains isn't enough to stop them. They can run, use tools, and even set traps. When paramedics and cops arrived on the scene, the zombies attacked them then radioed for back up so more victims would come. Not to mention the movie introduced the Tarman, an iconic character that even got his own action figure. HIGHLY recommended for fans of zombie movies, especially if you like black comedies.