The Return of the Living Dead (1985) – Dan O’Bannon

Dan O’Bannon who helped write Ridley Scott’s Alien, worked with John Carpenter on Dark Star, wrote the super helicopter fave, Blue Thunder, the original Total Recall, the questionable, but imminently enjoyable Lifeforce, ushers me into the next chapter in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book, Zombies!

Using Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead as a launching point, this 80s horror comedy classic is a helluva lot of fun. Filled with hilarious one-liners and equally one dimensional characters who are pulled from cardboard 80s stock, the film introduces the fast zombie long before 28 Days Later.

A couple of idiots working in a medical warehouse accidentally restore one of the zombies from the classic film to life, and as the gas that infected originally spreads through the warehouse, and the neighboring (conveniently located) cemetery reanimating the dead who are very vocal about their need for brains.

Unfortunately a group or ‘punks’ are waiting for their friend who works in the warehouse by partying in the cemetery.

Can you see where this is going?

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Embracing a wonderful love of gore, funny moments, lines and situations, the movie is a hoot to watch, and loaded with some truly horrible 80s songs, and hilarity. No one is safe, and it’s a bloody ride that revels in everything that is happening on screen and upends the zombie genre (at least at the time it did).

It became a cult classic, and I remember discovering it at the end of the 1980s when I was slowly expanding my film watching (finally) into the horror genre.

The acting is very much of the scene-chewing variety, and include recognizable character actor James Karen, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Jewel Shepard, Beverly Randolp and more and all of them seem to be having the time of the lives chewing on brains, taking their clothes off, listening to bad 80s tunes, and hoping to survive the night.

The creature effects are great, the blood plentiful, and the sense of humor, infectious. It’s just so much fun!

And that’s the best way to settle in for this one, it’s typical 80s fare, but with a zombie/pretend-punk skew, and even now it’s a complete joy to settle in and watch for, whether it’s the zombies calling for more paramedics (to eat their brains, of course), or watching a number of characters falling to the zombie effects themselves. This one is a ride, and a highly enjoyable one at that.

O’Bannon knows how to make use of his special effects department, and it looks like his entire budget is on the screen in brilliant red.

So do yourself a favor, if you’ve never seen this one, hunt it up. If you have seen it, take another watch, and if you’re not interested in that one, pick up a copy of Dk Books’ Monsters in the Movies, and find something else bloody and macabre to watch tonight.

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