The Return of the Living Dead Review
By Christopher Null
Not another sequel to Night of the Living Dead, The Return of the Living Dead is actually a semi-parody (pioneering for its time) of George Romero's films, with the same plot points (marauding zombies, nasty blood effects) but with a sense of humor not really found in the originals.
The story features two doofus military employees, who accidentally unleash nerve gas on a corpse -- who promptly reanimates -- and end up spreading the plague to a nearby cemetary. A group of punk rockers (including scream queens Jewel Shepard and Linnea Quigley) hanging out at the cemetary play dinner for the zombies that take to the streets.
Released the same year as Day of the Dead, Romero's third movie in the Living Dead series, the film is a pioneer in the horror/comedy world, with references to its inspiration ("Well it worked in the movie!") to the singular desire of its monsters ("Brains!!!"). At the same time, the gore you've come to expect from the zombie genre is fully intact, with some impressively ornate yet extremely cheesy splatter effects. But most of the scenes aren't as shocking as they are hilarious -- my wife (who hates horror movies) was really busting a gut throughout.
The new DVD is a must-own for horror enthusiasts, with a commentary from director/writer Dan O'Bannon and production desiger William Stout, plus trailers, a featurette on special effects, and original storyboard concepts (think lots of zombies).
As a side note for filmcritic.com fans, the film's director of photography was our very own member film critic, Jules Brenner.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 16th August 1985
Box Office Worldwide: $14.2M
Distributed by: HBO Video
Production compaines: Hemdale Film Corporation, Fox Films Ltd., Cinema 84
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 3
Cast & Crew
Screenwriter: Dan O'Bannon
Starring: Clu Gulager as Burt Wilson, James Karen as Frank, Don Calfa as Ernie Kaltenbrunner, Thom Mathews as Freddy, Linnea Quigley as Trash, Beverly Randolph as Tina, John Philbin as Chuck, Jewel Shepard as Casey, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. as Spider (as Miguel Nunez), Brian Peck as Scuz, Mark Venturini as Suicide, Jonathan Terry as Colonel Glover, Cathleen Cordell as Colonel's Wife, Drew Deighan as Paramedic #1, James Dalesandro as Paramedic #2