Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Return of the Living Dead

The Return of the Living Dead is one of those movies that a lot of people have heard about yet only a few have actually had the chance to see. It is often confused with George Romero's classic zombie film series and for good reason the co-writer of the original Night of the Dead was the writer of this movie. I had heard great things about this movie and finally had the pleasure of seeing it a few years ago and have since seen it 5 or 6 times and I love it just as much as I did the first time I had seen it. The movie features some great performances from veteran horror actors such as Clu Gulager, James Karen, Linnea Quigley, and Don Calfa.

The Return of the Living Dead tells the story of a two medical warehouse workers (James Karen and Thom Mathews) who unknowingly release a toxin that can bring the dead back to life. Cadavers come back to life, dissected animals as well and even the dead begin breaking out of the ground in the local graveyard. The two are joined by their boss, a mortician, and a group of young punks in the local funeral home as they try and escape the living dead. These zombies are smart, fast and out for brains at any cost. Will the military be able to save the group or will the living dead get to them first?

First things first, these zombies are unlike any zombies in any movie before. They are quick, retain all of their smarts, and are out for one thing only, brains. They are not the slow moving rotting corpses of the past and they are the zombies that inspired the creatures in such movie as 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, and the Resident Evil movies. The main thing that stands out to me is the retention of their mind because it opens up so many possibilities because the zombies become characters and not just devices to show off gore like in some other movies.  These are probably my favorite zombies in any movies due to that fact and it is awesome how utterly ruthless they are in order to get that next fix of brains. They are like junkies but instead of crack, their choice of drug is brains.

There is not an over abundance of gore in the movie but when it is used it is pretty solid. The acting was actually solid for a horror movie made in the 80's where they used to just cast any hot young person and any girl with a decent rack. But here we get solid turns from genre veterans and the young actors do a good job playing the group of punks. Clu Gulager, Don Calfa, and James Karen carry this movie from start to finish and they are never hokey in their roles. Linnea Quigley gives a solid stripping performance in the movie and its easy to see why see was cast in so many horror movies as the young woman who gets naked. The story was one of th high points because while being a comedic horror movie, it treats its source material with a tremendous amount of respect and they even treat The Night of the Living Dead as a factual event in the movie's world.

More zombie movies need to inject a little bit of B-movie madness into their story and action. The idea of zombies is inherently ridiculous and when you try and treat them seriously it sometimes comes off as goofy. The Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead are some of the only zombie movies that were able to successfully pull off the serious angle. Return of the Living Dead blends humor and seriousness to make a great combination where as movies such as Resident Evil fail miserably. The idea is not to take yourself too seriously and then the movie will have a natural charm to it because nothing feels forced.

This is a classic zombie movie and one of the best horror movies of the 80's. The Return of the Living Dead is a movie that deserves to be seen by more people because it is truly great. Wonderful humor and great horror action make this a great horror comedy fusion. Get this on Blu Ray or stream it on Netflix, just see it as soon as possible.