Return of the Livind Dead (1985) Review
Written by: jamhorner
This movie is like punk rock meets “American Graffiti” meets “Night of the Living Dead,” when all mixed together you get Return of the Living Dead; probably one of the best zombie flicks that was not done by George A. Romero. Essentially this movie is about a group of people and young rebels who unwillingly, and accidently, open a drum of chemicals that brings the dead back to life. This movie is very well made since it made numerous references to “Night” and the way in which the zombies act and attacked people. The acting, to say the least, was very over dramatic, there was some good scares and gore and I loved the punk rock theme that they had. This movie was just really well done and the only thing that I did not like about this movie was the overuse of the F word and the unnecessary nudity. Cursing is okay, but in small amounts, but should not be overused like in this movie.
First off, the plot structure was vastly different from your typical zombie flick, in a good way. It plays on the fact that “Night” really happened and it was true that the dead coming to life. It provides a reasonable and logical explanation behind the walking dead. While everybody knows that to kill a zombie, you must take the head off or damage the brain; in this movie, this is not true, they are still living after you take the head off. You cannot kill what is already dead. What was so different about these zombies was that they were completely conscience of their actions, they can talk and not mumble and they provide, through dialogue, why they have the craving for brains. I find this approach very unique and very different. This movie even plays on the theme of individualism through the lead rebel of the rebellious gang. He explains that his clothes, which is nothing but black leather and chains, is an expression of his being, but never explains why. Therefore it provides to be a great quagmire. To some extent it shows the rebellious side of the 80s.
The acting was very similar to that of The Toxic Avenger; it was so overdramatic that it was good. Two the lead characters in the beginning of the movie, played by James Karen and John Philbin, did a great job playing a panicky role, but so overdone. Clu Gulager, the male lead actor, also did a great job of being optimistic and his friend did a great job of being a bit skeptical, played by Don Calfa. The roles and performances that deserve a big applause for “Most Overdramatic Performance” should go to Mark Venturini, whp lays Suicide, Linnea Quigley, who plays Trash the death enthusiast and Beverley Randolph, who is the love interest of Phipin’s Chuck character. However, if not for these performances, this movie would not have the b-movie and cheesy feel that made this film so entertaining. When you think about it, it’s the acting that makes it work.
The blood and the gore is very limited when you compare it to some zombie flicks, however, it is very effective. The gore limits itself to zombie make-up and some eating scenes so that way they don’t overpower the film with unnecessary blood and guts. There is a scene, that should be notable, that has a zombie melting and decomposing which I though was very well done for it’s time like what American Werewolf did for werewolf transformation. Even at some points were directors would go crazy with blood and guts, they try not to embellish; this style is best shown through one of the zombies that just got acid thrown on its face, but there is not blood, just cauterized eyes and mouth. There weren’t that many scenes that were “jump out” scary scenes, though it didn’t phase me. Granted, it had good intentions and they had good ideas, but nothing. I guess for me there were more funny scenes that real scary scenes, but that’s another thing that makes this movie work so much, the almost slapstick, tongue-in-cheek horror.
The one thing that I really enjoyed about this film is the punk rock theme that was present through the entire film. As soon as the zombies bust out o the ground, hard rock and roll starts to blast through the speakers. It really brings the zombie genre to a whole new level of excellence. Even a majority of the main characters seem like they kind of guys that like rock and roll. It’s just a fun theme to play with and works very well with the zombie genre; evidenced by the remake of Dawn of the Dead, when they played “Get Down with the Sickness.” Though for me, it really gave this movie that retro 80s theme that I love so much. Rock N’ roll and horror mixed together, it’s a good thing.
Overall, this movie is just one great roller coaster with some great thrills, creature features, rock and roll, overdramatic acting and a whole mess of zombies and action. I’m glad that this movie was made because it paves the road for a whole new outlook on the zombie genre and give a new style of viewing the living dead as well as destroy it. It’s just a fun movie to watch and just really entertaining in horror sense. I would recommend this movie to any horror fan or beginning horror fan, but I would strongly recommend this movie for anybody who loves zombie flicks as well as Romero fans. For me, I love this movie way too much.