RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In the summer of 1985 while George Romero was releasing “Day of the Dead,” his former writing partner John Russo was releasing his own continuation of “Night of the Living Dead.” “Return of the Living Dead” starts in a medical supply company where the original zombies were shipped after the events of the first film. When two incompetent workers accidentally open the containers, the zombie infection begins again. After cremating the bodies of the zombies that escape, the smoke mixes with the rain and reanimates all the corpses in a nearby graveyard, and all hell breaks loose.
WHAT I LIKED
Calling “Return of the Living Dead” a horror movie is a bit of a misnomer. Rather, it’s a comedy in a horror movie setting. It has the set-up of many horror films from the 80s, in which a group of teens are up to no good and run into a supernatural killer.
The horror elements are actually quite good, though. The effects are pretty solid, in particular the iconic “Tar Man” who emerges from one of the containers. While some people might blame Danny Boyle for his fast-moving zombies in “28 Days Later” or Zack Snyder for his in the “Dawn of the Dead” remake, “Return of the Living Dead” features some pretty athletic zombies for its day.
For the gorehound, “Return of the Living Dead” delivers with plenty of brain-eating and flesh-tearing effects. Even by today’s standards, these make-up effects are pretty impressive and help move this out of spoof territory.
But it’s the comedy that really makes this film work. From zombies radioing back to headquarters to “Send more paramedics” and “Send more cops” to the ridiculous excuse for Linnea Quigley to strip down to nothing but leg-warmers, this movie is an icon of the 80s and a hell of a lot of fun.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The problems with “Return of the Living Dead” are the result of its era more than anything else, including some cheesy cinematography and lighting as well as stock characters from 80s horror movies. The only real problem I had with this film upon revisiting it is the somewhat abrupt ending and reused footage to finish the story. It just seemed thrown together or changed for no real reason.
Both the new Blu-ray and the bundled DVD include the features from the previous release, but they’re worth checking out because they are very extensive. There are two commentaries, one featuring the cast and crew with the undead, and the other featuring the director and production designer.
Featurettes include “The Decade of Darkness,” “The Return of the Living Dead – The Dead Have Risen” and “Designing the Dead.” Also included are two versions (“bloody” and “even bloodier”) of the theatrical trailer.
Clever featurettes include zombie subtitles and “In Their Own Words – The Zombies Speak” subtitles which translate what the zombies are saying.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE