The Return of the Living Dead

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Dedicated to my, Uncle David Taylor. Thanks for giving me my love of zombies, RIP.

Two employees working at a medical supply warehouse release a gas from an army canister containing the undead body of a former army experiment. The gas causes any dead tissue in its radius to reanimate and when said gas makes its way to the local graveyard, the sleepy residents rise up in hunger. Now a small group consisting of the bumbling employees, a group of rebellious punks, and the mortician next door, must survive the night but in the process they’ll have to answer the question “How do you kill what’s already dead?”

This I have to say is one of my all-time favorite movies, and not just because they gave some of my brethren speaking lines in this one (I can’t help but be offended that most films in the genre relegate us to mindless walking beasts). This movie is the true start of the Zombedy as it’s now been called, the precursor to such movies as Shaun of the Dead, Fido and Zombies of Mass Destruction. Zombies the world over happen to hold this film in high regard for one simple reason and it has nothing to do with the humor, Return of the Living Dead had the side benefit (for those of the undead variety) of making some people believe that not even a head shot could take us down. Thank you so much Mr. O’Bannon. We really appreciate the help because it’s tough being undead in a living world. I’m dedicating this review to my Uncle David who passed away early this morning 9-01-2014 as this was one of our favorite zombie films. He’s the man who gave me my love of all things zombie before I’d even been turned by sneaking me out of the house to go see a showing of Night of the Living Dead when I was a child, starting off a lifelong addiction to the undead side of things. Thank you for the start Uncle, you’ll always be in my unbeating heart.

The movie starts off with a new hire at the local medical supply warehouse. As he is being shown around the place he makes the mistake of asking his trainer what the weirdest thing to ever come through their distribution center was. His trainer tells him about a U. S. Army container that was accidentally shipped there a few decades prior. Inside the container is the reanimated but immobilized body of an army experiment gone wrong. In fact, this accident is the basis for the movie Night of the Living Dead, which was actually funded by the army to get people off the trail of a real event. The pair just have to mess with the container and a gas is released that temporarily knocks the two of them out and reanimates the lone cadaver (lucky for them) in the building. Their boss rushes down after a call from the completely freaked out workers after they’ve woken up and he precedes chops the no longer completely dead cadaver up. All three decide the only choice they have after this is to cremate the corpse, leaving nothing to come back a second time. Unfortunately for them (but oh so wonderful for me) the ashes rise into the air where they mix with rain clouds and come back down to Earth, bringing the local cemetery residents screaming out of their graves in the process. A group of rebellious teenagers partying in the graveyard (including a very sexy and very naked Linnea Quigley) suddenly find themselves in the middle of an apocalyptic event when the dead rise around them, putting them in same boat as our medical supply workers. Now all involved must try and survive the night or come back as brain hungering ghouls.

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{You can never get enough Linnea Quigley}

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{These two bumbling morticians are my favorite characters in the film}

First of all, when you watch this movie please understand that it was made nearly thirty years ago with a low budget and very little time. Still, in this undead reviewer’s humble opinion, they did extremely well with what they had. The makeup is exceptionally well done for its time and impressive with the little money they had allotted for use. I love the way they use Night of the Living Dead (the George Romero flick) as the real life basis for something that happened in this movie’s world. {Side Note: This movie was originally meant to be a sequel to Night of the Living Dead but director Dan O’Bannon felt it wouldn’t be right since Romero was already making Dawn of the Dead so he made the decision to change the script and make it a bit more comedic} So much of what we enjoy in zombie movies today we owe to this iconic film (without Return of the Living Dead we would never have gotten the awesome flick Shaun of the Dead). This is also the start of the often repeated “brrrrrians” moan that escapes the undead lips whenever a human victim comes into view (although to be quite honest, I actually always thought the brains were the least tastiest part and way too hard to get too, for me it’s all about the shoulder region). Humorously enough, though the “brrrrains” moan is used over and over again when quoting the undead, I can’t think of any other films outside of The Return of the Living Dead series where the dead even try and get to the brains. Not only is the skull a difficult thing to bust through with just your teeth and nails but destroying the brain would make it impossible to transmit the virus that makes us, well us. Still, every now and again someone will see me and start up with the whole moaning for brains thing, to be honest, it’s kind of insulting and just a little lifeist. I don’t walk by you meat sacks and start mooing…you know, because most of you eat cow…whatever, it was a bad joke.

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{Typical human response, contemptuous}

While the acting may not be necessarily the best, the characters still manage to pull off their part. I loved the group of 80’s punks that get stuck in the graveyard getting trashed while the dead begin to rise (not to mention the little Linnea Quigley striptease, yeah, I have a hard time getting past that one), the two whiney employees who first get hit with the gas provide an ever present state of amusement, and the tough as nails mortician who seems like he stepped right out of a gangster movie fits in just as well (and considering actor Clu Gulager’s violent outburst behind the screen his character may not have been far off). The zombies are great in this movie. I loved that they could speak somewhat and had a little bit of humor among themselves (such as calling in more paramedics after the first two get eaten). After all, if you’re dead and rotting but still wandering the planet you might as well do it with a smile on your face.

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{Send more medics}

If you’re a fan of the zombie genre then this is one movie you cannot pass up. You will see a lot in this that is common place in movies nowadays but was nonexistent when this film was first made. I will warn you, while I still think it’s a great film, it hasn’t aged entirely well, the effects are good…for the most part, there are some bad moments, and there are a few times where the acting borders on horrific; defiantly still worth watching but I figured I would give you a heads up. Don’t let that scare you away though, I think you’ll enjoy and after all, you don’t want to disappoint your favorite member of the undead now do you?

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Dan O’Bannon (Shatterbrain)

Starring: Thom Mathews (Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part 6, Return of the Living Dead 2), Clu Gulager (The Hidden, Feast) and Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons{1988}, Silent Night Deadly Night)

Released By: Hemdale Film and Orion Pictures Corporations

Release Year: 1985

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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