THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD...
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
Robert J. Bennett
What's it about
A toxic gas escapes from a medical warehouse and infests a graveyard. Some punk rock kids have taken it upon themselves to be as badass as they can be- theyíre partying in that very cemetary. Tarman and his evil hordes of the living dead are out of their graves and theyíre hungry. Ready for some fun?
Is it good movie?
Sometimes, a movie is more about the experience than the quality filmmaking. You can tell as soon as you pop a movie in that the filmmakers were going for entertainment value, and although the film may not win any Oscars, youíre going to dig it nonetheless.
Return of the Living Deadis one of those films. Hearkening back to the days of my childhood, ROTLD is a camp classic that has finally gotten the treatment it deserves on DVD. I know now that there are some younger readers who are going to want a detailed plot synopsis and analysis of the filmís dramatic properties, but to be honest with you there isnít much to tell.
This movieís a popcorn flick that knows its audience and its genre, winking at them throughout the film with many little touches. Itís a beautiful flick is about zombies, brains, boobs and blood. If youíre a fan of the Romero films (Night/Day/Dawn/Land of the Dead), then you need to know what youíre in for. This isnít a deep social commentary that makes you wonder who the monsters truly are, but instead a laugh riot that intends to gross you out while serving as a fantastic example of 1980ís zeitgeist. I just love the zombies here- funny dead guys who literally run around screaming that they would love to eat some brains.
This is a film that is reminiscent of old monster movies, a perfect companion piece to any zombie loverís collection, in the same vein as Monster Squad. The cast is great, featuring horror standbys like Thom Mathews, Clu Gulager and of course Linnea Quigley (who subsequently spends most of her time in the nude, including that infamous ďdancing on the gravestoneĒscene). Itís not overly scary or powerfully gory by todayís standards and maintains a fun vibe that makes it easy to watch.
Video / Audio
Video looks about as good as itís going to get here, with an awesome 1.85 widescreen ratio that does the film real justice.
In the Audio department we get a stereo mix that is well done, but why canít it be a Dolby 5.1? Thatís pretty much the standard these days.
First, weíll talk about the audio commentaries. The first one features director Dan O'Bannon and production designer William Stout, and is a rehash, appearing on the last DVD release as well. I liked it, and found it fairly interesting although Stout isnít always the easiest guy to listen to. The second audio commentary includes William Stout and actors Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph, Allan Trautman (Tar Man!) Linnea Quigley and Don Calfa and is a really entertaining listen, although some personalities talk more than others. Listen closely to this one, because something very scary happens during the commentary track, although I thought it was a little bit stupid and disruptive.
But thereís more! You get a Zombie Commentary, which is a funny idea that is pretty much just what you expect. Zombies groan and moan all over the place. Weird.
Return of the Living Dead- The Dead Have Risen is a 20 minute documentary where everyone remembers the film very fondly. Itís filled with neat photos and lots of information, although most of it can be heard on the adjacent commentary track.
Decade of Darkness is another 20 minute feature that goes as in-depth as it can about the boom of horror in the 80s. There are some great names here such as Joe Dante, John Landis and Stuart Gordon, but a lot of the movies they talk about are copyrighted to other studios.
You also get Designing the Dead, another feature from the last release that runs just over 10 minutes and features director OíBannon and Production Designer Stout again, and although itís brief, the guys have a lot to say, which makes this a good feature.
Also as a bit of a gag addendum to the zombie commentary, you get a Zombie Subtitle Stream, let the laughs begin!
Finally, a few trailers, two for the film, two for both Jeepers Creepers flicks, and one generic MGM horror one.
I love this flick- I think itís hilarious and a great throwback to the 80ís genre. Itís made with love, has lots of memorable moments and a kick-ass punk rock soundtrack. If you dig zombie flicks at all, youíve got to pick this up.