Return of the Living Dead (1985) Review
Written by: Decisi8ns
It isn’t easy to do a movie about Zombies, and then make it funny…at least it isn’t easy to make someone like me laugh while watching one. Take for example the bomb that I call “Shaun of the Dead”. To me, that movie sucked big time, yet a lot of people seemed to enjoy it. If I were to place a bet, I’d say that over eighty percent of those who liked “Shaun” probably thought that it was the first Zombie comedy ever made. I say this, since a lot of people who like “Shaun” weren’t even born when RotLD was released. Just another head shaking moment for me when it comes to the youth of America (I won’t say world, since America is ground zero for fucktards).
When the movie begins, you really don’t know what to expect, since you’re not thrown into a horror movie. It’s more like a drama or comedy film about teens at first. It’s a nice way to get to know the characters, and you have a good start for the film. I like that you don’t really have Zombies until about the half-way point, so you’ve built up a lot of other plots in that time before hand. The Zombies when you see them (and this might be a first in the movies) are not your typical George A. Romero Zombies. They are fast moving, won’t die from a head injury, can speak, only want to eat brains (to ease the pain of being dead), and pretty much act like they did when they were human. This change really doesn’t hurt the movie like it does in other current Zombie films (remake of Day of the Dead, 28 Days Later to name a few).
The humor is dark, and isn’t happening all the time, which is perfect. You don’t want the movie to have jokes every minute like in your Scary Movie titles. I think that’s what really makes this movie great, is the pacing of the jokes. Plus some of the parts in the movie might not have been supposed to be funny, but I find them humorous. There’s one scene when you have an older guy yelling at some of the teens “Are you crazy?! Are you on PCP?!” That always gets a laugh out of me for some reason.
If you want to learn a lot of the behind the scenes tidbits, then you have to watch the DVD with the commentary track on. I learned a lot of interesting stuff that is hidden in the film, or reasons why certain parts were filmed as they were. For example, there is a hidden message on an eye chart…do you know what it says? When you watch the movie, look for it (it’s in the room where Frank calls Burt after the problem starts).
I’ll be honest…the highlight of this movie is Linnea Quigley who plays Trash. To say that she doesn’t have a sexy body in the movie would be the biggest lie known to man. The nudity is a bit weird when it happens, but this is of course a horror movie…so you know that nudity is going to happen at any time, and any place. The movie does have something for the ladies though, which is rare since most horror films focus towards the male audience and have only the women nude. The rest of the cast did a great job on their characters, even when they were a bit cheesy with the scenes. The cheesiness almost helps with the comedy, especially with certain line reads for the action being shown on screen.
My favorite male character was Suicide, played by Mark Venturini. He was the leader of the pack, and had some funny lines. I always laugh when he gets pissed (driving a car won’t stop him) and almost beats the crap out of another character for calling him “Spooky”. I was shocked to learn (when I went to IMDB for some correct spellings on the names) that Mark died from Cancer back in 1996. I had only seen him in two movies, but for some reason his early death really hit me.
You also have two older actors who have some acting background to them. James Karen plays Frank, a worker at the warehouse. His boss Burt is played by Clu Gulager, who owns the business. When these two team up in any scene, it is sure to have some laughs to it. James Karen really must have had some fun in this movie, since his character is very memorable just on how he reacts to certain situations.
Without giving too much away, the movie is about Zombies of course. It starts out at a Medical Supply warehouse. The uncle (James Karen) of a new employee (Thom Mathews) is showing him the ropes when he tells his nephew Freddy a secret. This is when we discover that the movies made by a certain George A. Romero were almost based on a true story…but the facts were changed. Frank (the uncle) knows the back-story for what really happened and even has proof down in the basement. It is when this proof is shown, that the horror begins to slowly unfold.
After this moment is when the changes from your Romero Zombie films take place. Also, you see just how the Zombies are re-animated or how humans can become Zombies. I like this, since in the Romero movies you never knew the reason for the outbreak. You also see elements from “Night” and “Dawn”, since you have survivors trying to board up the buildings that they are in, and then you have the police dealing with the situation. The change from down to up (going to the attic instead of a basement as a last resort) was nice, and doesn’t copy what happened in “Night”. The Zombies are creepier because they can talk, and with their talking they can torment you mentally (this was also done in “The Last Man on Earth”, but I don’t see it as a copy for this movie).
The ending is one of those rare moments (at least it was rare back in the 80’s) when you have an extreme solution to a problem…which some might not see coming. I was shocked to see the result when I first watched this movie, but when I re-watch this film it makes sense (I can see the Government doing this if a real outbreak was about to spread).
It is unfortunate that the sequels for this title suck, and by suck I mean that they are pure crap. The second movie isn’t that bad, but it isn’t near the quality of the first movie. Parts three and beyond need to be buried where they put all those Atari 2600 E.T. cartridges and left to be forgotten. You know a movie is bad when you’re into the first ten minutes and you hear yourself saying “Was this direct to video? Did this even see the inside of a theater?” I read online (just the other day actually) that a comic book is in the works that takes place after the first movie. A few changes were made to make it work, but the idea sounds kind of cool. If it does come out, I’ll have to give it a try.