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Return of the Living Dead (1985) - Film Review

Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 Zombie film RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is cheesy to say the least. The acting is hammy, goofy, and just plain awful. The characters are over the top, and the story is ridiculous. There are so many laughs that it’s hardly scary at all – but my guess is, this is just how Dan O’Bannon wanted it. Thanks to a hilarious screenplay, this film actually works!

The opening statement of this film is that all events, and all people are real, and that what you are about to see, actually happened - it’s clear right away we can’t take anything about Return of the Living Dead seriously.

Freddy (Thom Mathews) has just started work for his uncle in a medical warehouse, shipping out skeletons, prosthetics and the like to whoever needs them. His uncle Frank (James Karen) shows him the ropes, explaining the basics of the job. It comes out in conversation that Night of the Living Dead was actually a true story, but the story was switched up a bit and what actually happened was that the government defeated the Zombies, sealed them in canisters, and shipped them out in a very hush, hush operation. Freddy finds the story hard to swallow, but Frank explains that in a government cock-up the canisters turned up at the warehouse and he still has them in the basement.

Freddy is excited by what he has heard and can’t wait to see these mysterious canisters. To reassure Freddy, Frank taps on one of the canisters to prove how sturdy it is, and too late he sees that it is not as sturdy as he’d thought! It cracks, releasing chemicals which render the pair unconscious. When they come round, they are not alone! Hands down the most entertaining part of this film is when they realise what’s happened and try to keep it under wraps so their boss and Joe Public doesn’t find out. It’s comic genius. They soon realise that Romero was lying to them in Night of the Living Dead and these Zombies cannot be destroyed by a bullet in the head. In fact, even if you completely dismember the body, the still living pieces will keep coming after you.

In a brilliant, slapstick scene they manage to contain the Zombie and chop it to pieces, they decide to take it to their friend in the mortuary and ask him to cremate the still animated remains. Once done, the smoke this creates is rained on, and the contaminated water filters through the soil at the aptly named Resurrection Cemetery. At once the dead return back to life and run around begging for brains.

A group of teenagers who are partying at the cemetery get caught up in the action, and the fight for survival is on!

As I previously mentioned, the acting is pretty poor across the board, although Frank and Freddie are such a good comedy double act that it doesn’t matter. The Zombies are not my favourite Zombies by a long shot; they run, and they can talk, and this makes them hardly like Zombies at all. But again, the humour saves them – after eating the brains of some paramedics attending the scene, one of them picks up the radio and radios through for more paramedics; it’s like ordering a pizza! Humour saves the day right the way through, though never again is it as funny as that first scene when the S**t hits the fan!

As for horror – I think the humour dilutes the horror in this film so much that it’s more of a comedy than anything else. It is worth watching if only for that first half hour of fun, but as a horror film, it’s nothing to write home about.

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985). Director: Dan O’Bannon. Writer: Rudy Ricci & Dan O’Bannon. Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Beverley Randolph.

Buy on Region 2:

Buy on Region 1:

1 comment:

  1. Ha Ha! You bought the memory flooding right back! The bit at the start when the brown stuff hits the fan is hilarious. Great review.