AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Today I return to what I remember as one of my favorite zombie movies, The Return of the Living Dead. I saw it a few times back in the day and loved it. I even had the poster on my bedroom wall for years. I personally don’t think zombies are that interesting of a monster (have I said that a few times this month?) so I like it when a movie plays with the genre and gives you something you don’t expect. Like humor. This is a funny zombie movie.
Anywho, back in the day, I was unaware of the interesting history behind this particular movie and it’s origins with the godfather of zombie movies, Night of the Living Dead.
After the success and controversy over Night of the Living Dead, director George Romero and writer John Russo parted ways. Romero left with the rights to make his “of the Dead” sequels and Russo received the rights to any “living dead” movies.
After Russo’s split with Romero, in 1978 he wrote a serious Night of the Living Dead sequel called Return of the Living Dead. Russo shopped this around to studios as a script. It was bought by producer Tom Fox. Tom Fox gave the book to Dan O’Bannon who re-wrote the script to be more humorous and further differentiate it from Romero’s movies. This new humorous and irreverent zombie movie bears little resemblance to Russo’s original story. The movie was originally supposed to be in 3-D and directed by Tobe Hooper. However, Hooper dropped out and O’Bannon went ahead as director.
The movie was finally released in 1985.
The movie is sort of a humorous side-quel to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. As explained in the beginning of the movie, the zombie ghouls in Romero’s movie were caused by a chemical called Trioxin. When the army was cleaning up the bodies and contaminated soil, some of their trucks mistakenly delivered their cargo to the Uneeda Medical Supply warehouse where they sat for like 20 years until two warehouse workers mistakenly crack open one of the drums, release the chemical and cause corpses to start rising from the grave again. And all hell breaks loose.
The zombies in this movie are a little different than the usual zombies you are used to. They can speak. There is a scene in which our heroes actually interrogate a zombie to find out why they eat humans. Several times zombies use a CB radio to call more paramedics and cops so they’ll have more brains to eat. Oh, and this movie was the genesis of the idea that zombies eat brains. Romero made his zombies cannibals who ate human flesh. These zombies can eat flesh, but they NEED brains and many walk around screaming “BRAINS!” You even see a few zombies using tools like hammers and clubs. They can also open doors and set up elaborate traps like using a pulley to pry open locker doors where people are hiding. It’s a little odd to see that now because most zombies these days can’t speak and shamble along just grunting. But I kinda liked it.
If nothing else, this movie is fun. Low rent and cheesy, but fun. The main teens are a bunch of punkers, suitably dressed and named things like Suicide, Meat, Trash, etc. Of course, Linnea Quigley plays the slutty Trash and spends the middle part of the movie mostly naked running from zombies. Then running around as a zombie. The character of Freddy is played by Thom Matthews who the very next year would go on to play Tommy in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Then, in 1988 he’d appear in the sequel, The Return of the Living Dead Part II, but as a completely different character. Not sure how that works as I haven’t seen any of the FOUR sequels they made to this movie. But I plan on giving them a chance.
And if you haven’t seen this movie, and you like cheesy 80s horror, then give this movie a chance. It’s still pretty entertaining.
And I can’t say enough how good the original soundtrack is with punk and hard rock and roll tracks all over it with bands like The Cramps, 45 Grave, TSOL and SSQ.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.