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Zombie Film Review:

The Return of the Living Dead

Reviewed by Steven Uden

Director: Dan O'Bannon

Year: 1985

Tagline: 'They're back from the Grave and Ready to Party.'

Review: I had heard stories of how the ROTLD series came about so thought I'd try to verify some details through Wiki. When Romero's Night of The Living Dead Came out there was a dispute over how any sequels should be dealt with between Romero and Russo. In the end an agreement was reached that Romero would continue with what he saw fit, and these would be the "DEAD" films, and Russo's films would be the "Living Dead" series; which would explain the names of Romero's sequels (Dawn of, Day of and Land of.) Also here's a little factoid for you. A Band called “Send More Paramedics” (who refer to themselves as “zombiecore” music) took their name from a line in this film, and a number of their songs reference it.

So there's a little bit of info for you, but moving onto the film itself. A young man called Freddy starts his new job in a medical supplies warehouse, and whilst being shown around by his co-worker Frank they accidentally release gas from an army canister that was mistakenly delivered to the warehouse some time ago. It turns out that the gas reanimates the dead and a cadaver in the freezer wants out. With the help of Frank's boss, Burt, they subdue the Cadaver, and take it across the road to the local funeral home where they have it cremated. However this backfires as the smoke from the burning corpse turns into a toxic rain cloud, that just so happens to be right over the graveyard where Freddy's oddball friends are waiting for him to finish work…

This film seems to be one of the first points at which Zombies instead of just craving human flesh, specifically longed for BRRAAAIINNSS. In one scene we're actually given a clue as to why this might be. This film has some very colourful characters -particularly Trash, Suicide, and Ernie- and some quite humourous moments -whether they're intentional or not, I'm not sure- even cheekily referencing Night of the Living Dead near the beginning of the film. What I like about this film is that not all of the zombies are people in make up; we actually get to see some special effects zombies that are in later stages of decay. The gore level isn't really that high, a bit of sprayed blood here, a bit of spilled brains there, but nothing major.

Zombie Quality: ***

I had a tough time justifying four stars for this, as whilst there are certain Zombies that I think would make a four, the vast majority of the zombie quality is pretty average. The Zombie from the Army Canister, great, liked him. Same for the 'half zombie' and the ‘Grave zombie' but all the others are pretty much “Dawn” standards. The Cadaver however looks like a yellow version of the ‘Tango man'.

Zombie Behaviour: **

The zombies for the most part in this film don't shuffle along, they run, they tackle, they have intelligence enough to speak, and how to get extra meals and to use pulleys, so they don't really fit in with the classical zombie behaviour at all.

Zombie Threat: ****

They run! Running zombies = Big trouble. Also they seem to have some intelligence. If you cut them up into pieces, the pieces still try to get you, so the only way to take one of these zombies out of action is to completely destroy it. Given enough time, the infection could spread worldwide.

Gore Content: **

A few sprays here and there, but even when a cadavers head is being punctured / cut off, there's no gushing torrents of blood.

Overall Quality: ****

A good start to the series, with a fresh take on how zombies behave, function and rise. Also you get the impression that the makers of ROTLD didn't have any real message to put across to the audience, which separates them from Romeo's films. (As George always has some under lying social commentary in his.) There's a lot of dark humour here which is carried off by some decent performances from the actors and in short this is definitely one worth watching, as it's got a lot of entertainment value.

SPECIAL AWARD: To the canister zombie, (apparently known as ‘Tarman') he's the coolest one in this film – and many other films.