Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Starring: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Thom Matthews, Don Calfa
Directed by: Dan O’Bannon
Two idiot employees (Karen and Matthews) at a medical supplies company accidently open a US-government cannister and release a gas which brings the dead to life…..and the dead want BRAINS!!!!!
I know what you’re thinking. This film is terrible. I don’t want to see any more zombie movies etc. But it’s worth holding off initial preconceptions here.
Return of the Living Dead is an immensely entertaining piece of cinema history – and it’s hilariously funny. O’Bannon obviously understood that making a serious sequel to Romero’s 1969 zombie genre-zenith wasn’t the best idea in the world and what he has produced here is a very amusing, camp and exhilarating cult classic.
Karen and Matthews’ are brilliantly cast as the dullards who start the ball rolling by letting their curiosity get the better of them. Some of the scripted dialogue between these two characters is genius and the two really seem to be having a great time with their characters throughout the entire film. (I never tire of watching Frank (Karen) endlessly muttering “Oh JESUS” in response to every situation…). Gulager (some of you may recognise him as the dad from A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2) excels as the leader of the bunch of survivors and Don Calfa’s appearance as the embalmer is fantastic.
The soundtrack is another positive; it’s so eighties cock-and-synth-rock that you just can’t help being overcome by a sense of crippling nostalgia. The special make-up effects have mostly stood the test of time and there is more than enough gore for the splatter fans. Whilst the vast majority of the movie is a big piece of fun, there are some darker sequences. Specifically, quite a sobering scene in which Calfa’s embalmer questions a captive female member of the undead:
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: You can hear me?
1/2 Woman Corpse: Yes.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: Why do you eat people?
1/2 Woman Corpse: Not people. Brains.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: Brains only?
1/2 Woman Corpse: Yes.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: Why?
1/2 Woman Corpse: The PAIN!
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: What about the pain?
1/2 Woman Corpse: The pain of being DEAD!
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: [laughing in surprise to his friends] It hurts… to be dead.
1/2 Woman Corpse: I can feel myself rotting.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: Eating brains… How does that make you feel?
1/2 Woman Corpse: It makes the pain go away
overall, this is a cracking movie with a genuinely witty script – although no Oscar winner for sure – but a whole lot of fun. Get some drinks in, a bowl of crisps and sit back and enjoy.
hotdog rating: 8/10.