Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Director: Dan O'Bannon
A toxin is accidentally released out of an old military canister and before you can say â€śLinnea Quigley" has perfect tatas, the dead exit their graves and theyâ€™re hungry forâ€¦BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!
Rare are genre films that succeed in making you giggle like a schoolgirl inhaling helium, and frightening you simultaneously but "Return of The Living Dead" is one of those gems which perfectly juggles all of its various elements to offer us a flawless horror dish.
Taking its cue from â€śNight Of The Living Deadâ€ť (according to â€śReturnâ€ť what happened in NOTLD was based on a true story) "Return Of The Living Dead" is not only an homage to Romeroâ€™s classic, but it also manages to stand firmly on its own two feet as one of the finest Zombie offerings on the block. This is the flick responsible for the concept of the undead needing to consume brains. This is the movie which took the concept of the dead coming back to life a step further by having split dogs and dead butterflies also re-animate ("Re-Animator" did something similar the same year). And this is the film that defined the cemetery zombie resurrection scene for my stupid ass. It's mucho stylish, crazy engaging and it never failed to give me Goosebumps every time I see it. Fun freaking times!
Add to that, exceptional gooey special effects (the limping zombie scared the â€śbejeesusâ€ť out of me), a wonderful, talented cast (Gulager, Calfa, Matthews and Karen are so on!), a Linnea Quigley that just canâ€™t seem to keep her top on (whoâ€™s complaining?), hipper-than-hip dialogue, an ass whooping soundtrack, slick directing, a daring cap-off and you get a bonafide kick-your-ass-all-over-the-place horror classic. In my opinion, this film is perfect. Even the bad acting (that dude Suicide) didnâ€™t bother me one bit. It had me in stitches! Hilarious!
"Return Of The Living Dead" does it all and does it very well. I can count at least three scenes that have been engraved in my mind since I first saw the film. Trashâ€™s (Quigley) rebirth, Frank (Karen) and Freddy (Mathews) learning they have Riga Mortis (I felt for them there) and of course, this immortal line: â€śSend more Paramedicsâ€ť! The dead will always be alive, thanks to this bad boy. BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!!
Sawed off limbs, pickaxe in the head, some brain chomping, icky zombies, split dogsâ€¦yes, we get the works on this pie.
Clu Gulager (Burt) is awesome as the take-charge guy. His comic timing is so "on". I loved him. Speaking of comic timing, James Karen (Frank) and Thom Mathews (Freddy) also deliver in that department. Theyâ€™re a treat to watch and have great chemistry together. Don Calfa (Ernie) gives a subtle show as the somewhat greedy embalmer. I loved his deadpan demeanor. Beverly Randolph (Tina) didnâ€™t do much for me. Her constant whining was a tad annoying, but I was able to let it go. Miguel A. Nurez Jr. (Spider) holds his own as the â€śpunkâ€ť homie. Linnea Quigley (Trash) does great as the sex/death-obsessed misfit. Sheâ€™s also nude for most of the film. I have to mention Mark Venturini (Suicide) whose aggressive character had me rolling on the floor in laughter. Now thatâ€™s one guy who needs to toke some of that sweet chiba. Brother needs to chill!
T & A
In my opinion, this is the role that made Linnea Quigley (Trash) famous. We get â€śfullâ€ť extensive nudity from the gal and trust me...youâ€™ll savor every second of it. She looks scrumptious! The ladies get some naked yellow male cadaver running around showing off his bald head and arse. Enjoy.
O'Bannon goes "all out" with the creative shots (loved the one where the camera follows the rain underground into the grave), slaps in some slow motion, delivers a tight pace and mood galore. Great show! But what ever happened to his directing career? He showed so much promise with this one ("The Resurrected" wasnâ€™t all that).
We get a rockin' soundtrack with the likes of â€śThe Crampsâ€ť, "The Misfitsâ€ť and â€ś45 Graveâ€ť tossing in some kool sounds. The tunes go from old school punk to kind of 80â€™s â€śglamâ€ť rock. The score is also solid; I loved the tune that ran during the resurrection sequence.
Distributor: MGM Home Video
IMAGE: This dual sided disk gives the option of watching the flick in "Standard" mode or 16x9 Widescreen mode. The image is sharp and grain less. Watch it in Widescreen for the full effect. Good stuff!
SOUND: The score and the dialogue is crystal clear and put out at the right levels. The type of sound this DVD sports isn't specified on the DVD box or the DVD (what's up with that?) but I assume it's in Stereo. Sure sounds like it.
Commentary with director Dan O'Bannon and PD William Stout (full length): Dan and William come in and humorously begin by re-confirming that the film was based on true events. They give us their thoughts on the casting (O'Bannon initially wanted the Karen role for himself), the dialogue, the effects, the Romero inspirations, the locations, info on the production while working on a budget, the yellow coloring on the corpses, some slick trivia (William has a cameo) and so much more! There is some down time on occasions but the commentary is mostly on and for any fan of the film, very insightful. We get lots of juice here!
Designing the Dead featurette (~ 13 minutes): Dan sits down and gives us insight how he got in the biz, what lead him to "Return of the Living Dead" and his method of getting his ideas for it. William Stout also comes in to explain how O'Bannon hired him, gives us a glance at his zombie designs and how he approached them for the film. We then learn how as a team they went on to tackle the look of the zombies and the inspiration behind the undead. Although a good watch, I still craved more once this featurette was done, I wanted more insight into the shoot, maybe behind the scenes footage or bloopers. I know...I'm too demanding.
Conceptual art by William Stout: These series of images that we can browse through with our remote looked more like storyboards for the film than conceptual art to me, but nevertheless, they were still groovy to check out. Harmless extra.
We also get 9 TV SPOTS which are basically the same thang over and over again with minor changes and two kool THEATRICAL TRAILERS, one is G-Rated and the other one is R-rated.
The DVD isn't as packed as I would've hoped but hey, IT'S FINALLY HERE! I'm still a happy, gory camper. The commentary made up for the weak extras. Thanks again MGM!
"Return Of The Living Dead" is a classic in my book. It delivers in the scare department, displays great comic timing and serves all of its bloody pastries on a morbid plate of fun and gore. You just canâ€™t go wrong! This is one of my all-time favorite zombie films and it's a solid companion piece to the Romero trilogy. IT'S PARTY TIME!
"Return Of The Living Dead" was originally set to be directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by George Romero. It didnâ€™t happen.
The budget for the film was $4 million clams.