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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

The Return Of The Living Dead 1985 Reviewed

Featured Image For The Return Of The Living Dead 1985 Reviewed.   The poster of "The Return of the Living Dead" features cartoonish undead characters in a cemetery with bold title text.
They've clawed out of their graves and they're ready to party. 'The Return of the Living Dead' revives terror with a ghastly twist.

In some forgotten corner of the city, shadows gather like ravens, their ragged wings brushing against the damp concrete and the broken edges of reality. It's here, beneath the neon-lit grime, amidst the screech of tires and the whispers of those left behind, that the dead dance again. I'm talking, of course, about Dan O'Bannon's 1985 horror masterpiece, The Return of the Living Dead.

The Return Of The Living Dead 1985 Key Takeaways

  • Zombies are evolving: Unlike the slow, lumbering zombies of traditional Romero films, the undead in The Return of the Living Dead are fast, cunning, and can even speak to a degree. This evolution signifies a fresh take on the zombie trope.

  • Horror and humor are not mutually exclusive: The film successfully blends dark humor with genuinely terrifying moments, setting a foundation for the entire horror-comedy subgenre.

  • The chemical threat is real: The film's emphasis on the Trioxin gas and its origins in real-life events taps into a fear of chemical disaster and its unsettling consequences.

  • Punk rock and decay: The film's punk aesthetic, along with its vibrant soundtrack, infuses a rebellious spirit into the horror genre and reinforces the theme of anti-establishment chaos.

  • Practical effects rule: The gooey, grotesque special effects used throughout the film still hold up decades later, reminding viewers of the raw power of practical effects in horror.

  • Even the dead can party: While the zombies remain a constant threat, the film shows that even in the face of impending doom, there's always space for dark humor and a macabre kind of fun.

  • The importance of incineration: The only way to fully destroy these zombies is by burning them completely, adding another unique element to the zombie survival playbook.

Woman with a look of terror on her face, watching a campy zombie movie.
The ridiculous zombies on the screen were almost laughable... until the gnawing unease in her stomach turned to icy fear.

This ain't your grandfather's zombie shuffle. This is punk rock decay with extra attitude, a Molotov cocktail of chemical gunk and ravenous hunger thrown right in the face of the establishment. If George Romero's films were all about the slow, inevitable decay of the American Dream, The Return of the Living Dead is the middle finger to the corpse of those ideals, a splatter-punk ballet fueled by pure, uncut fear and laughter.

Let's step into the Uneeda Medical Supply warehouse for a moment, shall we? Our hapless tour guides are the ever-optimistic Freddy (Thom Mathews), fresh on his first day at the job, and his supervisor, the world-weary Frank (James Karen). Clu Gulager, as Burt the warehouse owner, brings a grizzled determination to his role that you can almost smell – it's the scent of bad decisions and even worse coverups.

That's where things get messy. Because Uneeda ain't just storing scalpels and tongue depressors. Turns out the U.S. Military has a little stinker down in the basement, a canister full of 2-4-5 Trioxin, a nerve gas that's got a nasty habit of bringing the dead cadaver back to life. The fact that this gas is based on true events – an accident at a morgue, they say – is a chilling reminder that reality often has more bite than our nightmares.

Romero created the modern zombie, but Dan O'Bannon gave it a pair of ripped fishnets and a studded leather jacket. When Frank and Freddy accidentally crack open that canister, they don't just unleash a horde of ghouls, they rip a hole in the very fabric of normalcy. These zombies ain't slow and shambling – they're fast, feral, and shriek for "BRAAAAAINS!" human brains with a punkish urgency. They're less a metaphor for mindless consumerism and more like the id unleashed on a world ill-equipped to handle it.

Man with eyes wide, staring in fear at a TV screen playing a classic 80s horror movie.
He'd always thought zombie movies were cheesy fun, but the relentless hunger in their eyes made him question everything.

A Retro Zombie Film You Need To Watch

O'Bannon, who cut his teeth co-writing the sci-fi horror classic Alien, pours every ounce of his twisted genius into this flick. It's got humor black as tar, gore that's both shocking and gleefully over the top, and a cast that sinks their teeth into their roles, no pun intended. Linnea Quigley's "Trash" is an anarchic goth goddess come to life, while Clu Gulager and James Karen chew through every scene like a pack of starving dogs, leaving just enough scenery behind for the rest of the cast.

But let's not forget the unsung hero of Return of the Living Dead: the Tarman. This oozing, melting monstrosity may only get a few minutes of screen time, but he's burned into the brains of everyone who's witnessed him. That guttural cry of “Brains!” still makes my spine tingle, and that final scene of the skeletal corpse bursting into flames? Pure horror iconography.

This living dead films not without its flaws, of course. It's cheesy, it's low budget, and its characters often make choices that'd get them killed off in the first five minutes of any other horror flick. But the sheer audacity, the punk rock spirit, and the gleeful disregard for convention make it a joy to watch over and over again.

If you're a fan of horror, a fan of the 80s, or just a fan of films that stick their tongue out at the world, The Return of the Living Dead is essential viewing. It's bloody, it's brash, and it's got a brain-hungry beat that won't let up until the credits roll. So lock the doors, turn up the soundtrack, and settle in for a ride that's as fun as a zombie conga line and twice as messy. Remember, they can't eat your brains if you're laughing too hard.

And that is The Return Of The Living Dead 1985 Reviewed. Another classic horror zombie film that captured the spirit of an era. 

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If You Liked The Return Of The Living Dead 1985 You Might Also Like These Films

  • Re-Animator (1985): This cult classic from director Stuart Gordon brings a similar mix of gore and dark humor to its zany premise. It follows a medical student who discovers a serum that can bring the dead back to life, leading to hilariously horrifying consequences.

  • Braindead (aka Dead Alive) (1992): Peter Jackson's early masterpiece is one of the goriest, most over-the-top zombie comedies ever made. It tells the story of a man whose overbearing mother becomes a flesh-eating zombie, infecting the entire town with a hilarious and grotesque bloodbath.

  • Night of the Creeps (1986): This homage to 1950s sci-fi horror blends alien parasites that turn humans into zombies with a classic college campus setting. It's full of quirky humor, memorable characters, and a healthy dose of gore.

  • Evil Dead II (1987): Sam Raimi's sequel to his low-budget horror classic ramps up both the scares and the slapstick humor. It follows Ash Williams battling demonic forces and reanimated deadites in a remote cabin, armed with a chainsaw and a whole lot of attitude.

  • Shaun of the Dead (2004): This British zombie comedy classic offers a fresh and witty take on the genre. An ordinary slacker named Shaun finds himself facing a zombie apocalypse in suburban London, and his survival plan mostly involves hitting the pub with his mum.

The Return Of The Living Dead 1985 Reviewed FAQs

Q: What is "The Return Of The Living Dead" about? 

A: "The Return Of The Living Dead" is a 1985 horror-comedy film directed by Dan O'Bannon. It centers on a group of employees at a medical supply warehouse who accidentally release a deadly gas called Trioxin from a secret U.S. military canister. This gas reanimates the dead, creating a horde of fast-moving, flesh-hungry zombies that crave brains. The film is known for its dark humor, punk rock aesthetic, and over-the-top gore.

Q: Who are some of the main characters in "The Return Of The Living Dead"? 

A: Some of the main characters in the film include:

  • Frank (James Karen): A grizzled veteran employee at the Uneeda Medical Supply warehouse.

  • Freddy (Thom Mathews): A young man on his first day at the warehouse, eager to learn but easily overwhelmed.

  • Burt (Clu Gulager): The owner of Uneeda Medical Supply, determined to cover up the incident at all costs.

  • Ernie (Don Calfa): The mortician, Burt's friend, and hapless accomplice in dealing with the zombie outbreak.

  • Trash (Linnea Quigley): A rebellious punk who becomes an iconic figure in the film for her graveyard striptease scene.

Q: How does "The Return Of The Living Dead" differentiate itself from George Romero's zombie movies? 

A: While George Romero's classic zombie films (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, etc.) established the slow, shambling, brain-eating zombie archetype, "The Return Of The Living Dead" subverts expectations with several key differences:

  • Speed: Romero's zombies were slow and relentless. O'Bannon's zombies are fast, agile, and driven by a frenzied hunger.

  • Intelligence: Dan O'Bannon's zombies can speak to a limited extent, strategize, and even trick their victims.

  • Motivation: They crave brains specifically to ease the pain of being dead, adding a strange pathos to their monstrous behavior.

Q: Are there any sequels or films in the series after "The Return Of The Living Dead"? 

A: Yes! "The Return of the Living Dead" spawned a franchise with four sequels:

  • Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

  • Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

  • Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005)

  • Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (2005)

It's important to note that the sequels have varying degrees of continuity with the original film and each other, often taking the franchise in new and bizarre directions.

Q: What is the significance of the graveyard in "The Return Of The Living Dead"? 

A: The graveyard, Resurrection Cemetery, is more than just a spooky setting. The Trioxin gas, when it rains, seeps into the ground and reanimates the corpses buried there. It becomes the epicenter of the zombie outbreak, the source from which the hungry dead swarm forth.

Q: Who is responsible for writing and directing "The Return Of The Living Dead"? 

A: The film was written and directed by Dan O'Bannon. He's a significant figure in science-fiction and horror, having co-written the screenplay for the classic sci-fi horror film Alien (1979) and directed other cult films like Dark Star (1974).

Q: Is "The Return Of The Living Dead" still a good watch for horror movie fans? 

A: Absolutely! "The Return Of The Living Dead" is still considered a cult classic and a beloved entry in the zombie horror-comedy genre. Its blend of scares, humor, punk rock attitude, and memorable characters make it an enduring and endlessly entertaining watch for fans of both horror and offbeat cinema.



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