Return of the Living Dead (1985)
(Release Date: August 16, 1985)
Misfits, Twilight Zone, Goofy Fun, Three StarsMisfits, Twilight Zone, Goofy Fun, Three StarsMisfits, Twilight Zone, Goofy Fun, Three Stars

Sillier than the William Shatner Sings album... and almost as scary!

The Undead Critic!!!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!


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  Night of the Living Dead (1968)
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They might not be Vegetarians, but I is!

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Return of the... Night of the... WHAT?

How do these two Zombie Series relate to each other if at all?

This is one of those horror film-lore questions that have been bandied about like "did the Texas Chainsaw Massacre really happen?"

The shortest (and easiest) answer is "No!" Return of the Living Dead is a self-contained film series that uses the similarity in Title to Night of the Living Dead to shamelessly cash in that older franchise and imply that this might be a sequel!

Most film buffs will tell you that, and they'll mostly be correct! However this isn't quite the truth! According to Writer/ Director Dan O'Bannon (Alien) The Co-Writer of the Original Night of the Living Dead, John A. Russo had a (somewhat) amicable departure from Dead director George A. Romero. Both agreed in principle that the other could make sequels if the hankerin' grabbed them.

Famously, Romero gave us a Trilogy starting with Sequel Dawn of the Dead (1978) and completing (we thought) with Day of the Dead (less than two months before this film was released in 1985).

Russo wrote Return of the Living Dead as a serious Sequel... however, after Dawn of the Dead (and the impending Day of the Dead) made Romero the King of the Genre, O'Bannon pulled a Casino Royale and re-wrote Russo's story as a Comedy and completely unashamed rip-off/ tribute that even references the original film by name.

While the Return of the Living Dead series is certainly technically not a part of Romero's vision, it does have its roots in the original film almost as much as Dawn of the Dead does, and much, much more than Zombie 2: The Dead Are Among Us does.

-Myth Bustin' Kneumsi!


SupermanFrom Herbert West - Reanimator to 28 Days Later... I know from whence I speak. I know every trick in the book, I know the formula, I know the exceptions to the formula and I know more than anyone else that even a Bad Zombie movie can be more fun to watch than a Shakes the Clown tribute to Liberace!

And, that, True Believers, is why Return of the Living Dead, an unashamedly campy and exploitative slice of American Cheese, has become a complete classic!

"What?" I can smell you say. "How could this cheese-ball rip-off midnight movie be a classic?" Well, Rudy Tuesday, how can it not be?

Unable to compete with the low-budget, yet masterful and well-respected George A. Romero Living Dead series (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead) the film makers under the tutelage of writer-director Dan O'Bannon (of both Alien and Dark Star) and Executive Producer John Daly (of both The Terminator and Going Ape!) opted for a truly scary, yet also tongue-in-cheek and farcical horror movie as inclined to tickle as it is to chill the old Funny Bone!

It wouldn't be a Zombie Movie if it wasn't Scary, it wouldn't be a Zombie movie if it wasn't really pretty gross, and it wouldn't be Return of the Living Dead if it didn't have more Knee-Slappers than the audience at a Soggy Bottom Boys concert.

The plot (such that it is) concerns those two clowns Frank (veteran actor James Karen) and Freddy (Thom Mathews from... um) getting put in charge of a Medical Warehouse in Northern Kentucky that contracts to the US Army. When Frank starts bragging to the Rookie Freddy about some of the X-Files type goodies they have in the basement of the building, they accidentally unleash a toxic gas that reanimates the dead.

What follows is sillier than Michael Jackson's Thriller and scarier than Michael Jackson's Moonwalker! Freddy's Punk Rock buddies (including Trash, the consistently naked and yummers Linnea Quigley) decide to kill (and resurrect?) a little time by partying in the cemetery. Everything's groovy, everybody's stoned, and Trash is dancing beautifully naked on a Tomb when the chemicals hit the ground in a little acid rain and bring the ghouls to the party.

And so the dead walk in a Schlocky, gruesome and torrentially hilarious spoof on reality as the ashen husks of former humans hunt down brains. See, it doesn't just happen at Reform Party Conventions! If this movie can be summed up in one word, it's "Brains", but not in the same way that A Beautiful Mind can! Everything from the most minor to the most major comes back from Hades. If it's dead it walks! And it's probably going to make a joke. These aren't the Mindless, staggering ghouls of Romero's Night of the Living Dead! These Zombies are strong, clever, wise cracking, and basically the kind of folks you wouldn't mind hanging out with for the laughs alone... well, if it weren't for that whole Cranium-Cracking Gray-Matter-Chomping thing, that is!

One really great thing about this film is the special effects. While at times they're cheesy and obvious in their schlockiness, the Creature Design (by William Stout) and Make-Up are definitely above average. Whereas the original Zombies of Romero's Night of the Living Dead were primarily pale, scarred people, Stout gives us rotting corpses that look like rotting corpses, or like Eddie from Iron Maiden! Stout has a real gift and the realism here actually aids the comedy!

While this film goes wrong on a lot of levels and in a whole lot of scenes, it's almost ridiculous to nitpick a film of this kind. O'Bannon and company were well aware that they were making cheese, and cheese they make to rival both Kraft and Les Claypool! The film makers were intending fully to make a gory, yet goofy and laugh-a-minute horror comedy, and in that respect they've completely succeeded. It's a lot more funny than it is scary and it's great fun to watch. Sure there's depravity, more murders than you can shake a femur at and enough blood and dripping body parts to give Jerry Springer a Year's worth of programming! It's all in good fun, though, and it's impossible to take seriously. It's disgusting gore for the kid in you, and crazy laughs for the adult in you! It's sort of like Frosted Mini-Wheats for the undead!

The actors don't take their lines seriously (and have as much fun delivering the corn as they do the screams) so why should we? Honorable mention has got to go to Linnea Quigley! What a great idea! She gets naked really early in the film and stays that way throughout her entire screen time! She flashes more than a Paparazzi Camera, Loc! Every B-Movie should use this formula... Take a hot punk chick, get her to doff the clothes, have her run around naked... this could even fix a plot hole the size of the Titanic! Hip-Hip-Hooray!

From a special effects, comedy, horror and B-Movie standpoint, this film is the top of the Heap! There's no better way to laugh and goof with your beer drinking buddies than by popping Return of the Living Dead in! On the other hand, let's face it, it is a B-Movie and Zombie popularity or not, even this one gets Three Stars out of Five! Is this a cheesy Rip-Off? Pretty much... they even reference the movie Night of the Living Dead by Name! But let's face it, they set out to make a comic foil to those serious films, and there's no question that that's exactly what they succeeded in doing! You may groan, you may ask why you're watching this film, but you will laugh, and that's worth your time, I'd wager. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run to the local Whole Foods Market! I hear VeganBurger, Inc. is coming out with an All-Vegetarian Soy-Substitute for Human Brains! I can't get enough of 'em!

If the Dead Walk and hunt for your brain...
You probably have just enough time to read ONE MORE review by clicking here!

Return of the Living Dead (1985) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
who is solely responsible for his own views and also for his experiments with reanimation... Hoo hoo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
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BRAINS!

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