Director – Dan O’Bannon
Cast – Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Matthews, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Jewel Sheperd, Miguel A. Nunez Jr.
Release Year – 1985
Reviewed by John of the Dead
It is quite a shame that it took me so long to review this flick. By saying that, you should have gotten the impression that this film is awesome, and…it is. One of the best zombie films of all time, and the most groundbreaking since 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, The Return of the Living Dead was possibly the first zombie shout-out flick, and was the first zombie flick to endorse the “running” zombies. No you newbies, 28 Days Later did not start the “running” infected/zombies, now read on and allow me to hit you with some knowledge.
This flick begins with a group of moronic employees at a medical supply warehouse who accidentally unleash some type of toxic gas from a container left by the military many years prior. From inside the container a brain-hungry zombie escapes, and the toxic gas causes a once very DEAD cadaver to come back to life. The hapless employees, along with the help of their boss, decide to get rid of this problem by chopping up the cadaver and cremating it at a local morgue. BAD IDEA. The toxic chemical is now in the fumes that are being thrown into the air on this dark and rainy night. The rain brings the chemical back onto the ground, which unfortunately includes a very big cemetery. A young group of punks partying at the cemetery must now battle for their lives from a hoard of very brain-hungry zombies, who begin to take over the town as they grow in number.
There are so many different reasons as to why I love this film, and I am quite sure I won’t nearly cover them all. If you are a fan of zombie flicks, then this is a MUST WATCH for you. We get a story that has been done many times before, but that only adds to this film’s greatness. Why? Because this flick is attacking mostly every zombie cliché, and making them better. Writer/director Dan O’Bannon was no stranger to the horror scene, and it is obvious in this flick. Being the writer of the critically acclaimed flick Alien, and the great zombie-esque film Dead and Buried, along with many other enjoyable horror flicks, his writing as well as direction in this film is top notch. We get plenty of gore, lots of zombie action, and just the right amount of creative elements to keep the viewer engaged throughout the entire film. From the cut-in-half vet school dogs coming to life to the zombie on the morgue table screaming and announcing her love for brains, this film is highly well written in respect to the zombie genre. I’ve seen zombies enjoy brains before in other flicks, but to see and HEAR them enjoying brains is something never before done before this flick. This helped a lot with this films pacing, which happens to be pretty much perfect thanks to everything thrown into it. I could not find a dull moment in this flick, and that is thanks to awesome writing and direction.
We even get a slight comedic element thrown into this flick as well. It isn’t as strong as the comedy in Shaun of the Dead, but was present enough to give this a fun and campy feel, and not take itself too seriously. After enjoying the serious Romero “Dead” trilogy, I’m sure it was nice for zombie fans at the time to get a taste of what a “fun” zombie flick would feel like. Something tells me that this flick was exactly what they were looking for.
Overall, this is an amazing zombie film that I recommend to all fans of zombies and the horror genre overall. We get everything we need from this flick: zombies, gore, new innovative elements, and a fun and campy feel that makes these films so much fun to watch.