The Return of the Living Dead
Directed by Dan O’Bannon
Starring Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley
Review by Jordan
A majority of cinema goers seem to believe that the advent of running, talking zombies or meta-horror/comedies is a new one, perhaps brought about by the likes of Danny Boyle’s rage-virus introducing 28 Days Later (2002) and the hugely successful Zombieland (2009), but for a more intelligent breed of living dead where a walker wields a handgun one need just revisit George Romero’s third entry in his ongoing “… of the Dead” franchise Day of the Dead (1985), and for a horror/comedy with flesh eaters that to this day remains funnier than most comedies with make-up FX (the Tar-Man being particularly memorable) that also ensures its legacy as a true classic for horror nuts, The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is more than deserving of its esteemed status among its hard-core fans.
A clever story written by Rudy Ricci (who played a zombie in Night of the Living Dead), John A. Russo (co-writer of Night of the Living Dead) and Russell Streiner (producer of, you guessed it, Night of the Living Dead), with a screenplay by the great Dan O’Bannon who also directed, The Return of the Living dead joyously takes place in a world where Romero’s seminal 1968 masterpiece was based on true events, introducing a new epidemic once a Govt. created toxic gas is released into the air near a graveyard causing the dead bodies to become reanimated with a desire for that one apparently delicious delicacy… brains.
Choosing the wrong night to party in this graveyard are a group of mo-hawk sporting, leather-clad punks, including the immortalized fan-boy favorite Trash (scream queen Linnea Quigley), who must pair with mortuary caretaker Ernie (Don Calfa) and medical supply warehouse manager Frank (James Karen) to stay alive against the onslaught of surprisingly clever mindless creatures of the night.
Oh, some ambulance drivers turn up for a moment too, but unfortunately their nights end rather swiftly…
O’Bannon, who sadly passed away in 2009, still doesn’t get the recognition his legacy renders him deserving of, being co-writer of/acting in John Carpenter’s directorial debut and cult favorite Dark Star (1974) with later writing credits including Alien (1979), Dead & Buried (1981), Lifeforce (1985) and Total Recall (1990); all much loved genre films crafted by renowned film-makers. His influence on science fiction in particular has been profound, but through his ’85 self-aware horror effort it’s important to remember the influence he has had on horror also, noticeable whenever a new zombie movie is released intent on not taking itself too seriously; which would be most then.