I hope whoever reads this had a truly happy Thanksgiving! :) Now, on with our next installment of ZOMBIE FILMS TO WATCH BEFORE YOU DIE!
"THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD" (1985)
TAGLINE: "They're back from the grave and ready to party!"
ENTIRE STORY IN AS FEW WORDS AS POSSIBLE:
Uh, I can't come up with anything that tops that tagline! :P
COOL, GEORGE ROMERO MADE ANOTHER ZOMBIE FLICK?
Er, actually, Romero made "Day of the Dead" in 1985, not this film! There was some understandable confusion about this movie and its ties to Romero's zombie films until folks knew the whole score. The original story and concept for "Return" came from John Russo, who co-wrote "Night of the Living Dead" with Romero. Russo retained the rights to any films with the words 'Living Dead', and sought to make "Return of the Living Dead" into a movie. After some negotiations, the late Dan O'Bannon -- he also co-wrote "Alien", "Heavy Metal" and "Total Recall" -- rewrote and directed the film to have a very different tone from Romero's works. How different? Think a horror movie with the undead infused with liberal amounts of comedy!
With a faux advisory that includes "The events portrayed in this film are all true.", the story opens in a medical supply company, where a long-time worker is schooling a knucklehead new hire. It's a place where all manner of medical equipment and supplies, including cadavers, are sold...it's definitely the kind of environment where employees need to make their own fun. The older guy runs the newbie through the basics, but then starts spinning a strange yarn: the film "Night of the Living Dead" was based on true incidents...and he should know, since they're keeping the once-reanimated dead in the basement! One thing leads to another, and we quickly discover that idiocy knows no age when they accidentally prompt a leak of mysterious, toxic gas from one of the containers holding the former zombies. And, unfortunately, the place isn't far away from a cemetary...
More fresh meat is added to the mix when the young knucklehead's girl and a gaggle of colorful, punk-infused buddies (hey, the film was made in 1985) go to see him and par-tay! And where do these tearaway kids decide to do it? In the nearby cemetary...and the situation quickly descends into a chaotic party of the damned as newly-awakened zombies start hunting for them. And anybody else who still has a pulse!
SO IS IT GOOD?
This flick will catch you off your guard with how good it is, zombie-lovers. If you have seen it, then you need no explanation. For those of you who do, think of ways to cause a laugh -- not just a nervous giggle -- when horrorshow bloodshed is going on. It's not easy, with the only previous successful example of horror-comedy being Joe Dante's 1984 classic "Gremlins". Dan O'Bannon succeeds too, and in ways that I guarantee you won't expect. Even the conventions that Romero himself originated are turned on their ear!
Case in point: when the gas escapes and brings a dead body in cold storage to life, the knuckleheads responsible call the owner of the company, Burt (Clu Gulager), to fix things. A zombie is a big thing to fix, and they figure they can just destroy its brain Romero-style, and that's that. WRONGO! In a morbid comedy of errors, the zombie nearly gets away, then it WON'T die after it's given a good sharp pickaxe to the skull! And then the pieces won't die after Burt and the knuckleheads cut the body up as everybody's on the verge of pure panic...you get the idea! :P
Special mention must be made that this film isn't made for kids, unlike "Gremlins". Exhibit A being the character of Trash, immortalized by Linnea Quigley, who made her name as a scream queen in "Return". For most of the time she's in the movie she's got her clothes off, and even does an erotic dance in the cemetary. And she still has her clothes off after she's transformed into a zombie princess with a taste for brains!
OKAY, BUT WAS THERE PLENTY OF BLOOD AND GORE?
Uh, I believe I said this film isn't for kids. ;) I guess telling you about a zombie getting a pickaxe in his noggin didn't send the message. Rest assured, there's that and more gory stuff besides.
BOTTOM LINE, DID ANYONE GET OUT ALIVE?
Well, not to spoil things, but a low-yield nuclear blast is involved...!
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY:
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions...and by idiots. Nude zombie women give new meaning to the expression 'dead-sexy'. Finally, true love just can't compare to the sweet, sweet taste of brains!