Why We Love…The Return of the Living Dead!

In the summer of 1985, theaters across the U.S. were graced with the release of The Return of the Living Dead. Written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (Aliens, Heavy Metal), the film was originally to be based on a book by John Russo (co-writer of Night of the Living Dead) but was completely re-written by O’Bannon when he signed on to the project.

The Zombies…

Return featured some zombies that have become quite iconic over time. Most notably “Tarman” and “Half-Lady”. The zombies also differed from Night in that they could move quickly, were strong and could speak. Also, their bite did not turn others into zombies and an injury to the brain does not kill them. Return also invented the whole “BRAINS” thing for zombies. Before this film, zombies ate flesh, not brains.

The Story…

Frank (the venerable James Karen) is training new employee Freddy for his new job at a medical supply warehouse when Frank begins to tell Freddy about how Night of the Living Dead was a true story and was based on a chemical release that happened years prior that the government had gotten under control. Frank explains that  a few canisters of the zombies were wrongly shipped to their facility and had been there for years. Since Freddy doesn’t believe him, Frank takes him downstairs to see for himself and mistakenly releases the gas into their faces and knocks them out. When they come to, shit starts getting crazy.

The Graveyard Scene…

While Freddy is busy at his first day on the new job, his girlfriend and his odd group of half punk rock/ half yuppie friends decide to hang out in a nearby cemetery to wait for him (solid choice). While there, Trash (the legendary Linnea Quigley) starts talking about different ways to die and then decides to do a strip-dance thing for the group. It was this scene that led me to ask for her hand in marriage when I first met her in 1989 (she declined).

The Soundtrack…

Among the best soundtracks in movie history. Punk legends The Cramps, The Damned and T.S.O.L. are among the bands that contributed.

The Comedy…

Return is absolutely hysterical. From the time Freddy and Frank wake up and discover that the chemical has revived human corpses as well as a half-dog medical statue, the comedy does not end. Let’s also not forget the zombies using the CB radio in the ambulance to “send more paramedics”.

Final Thoughts…

The Return of the Living Dead is a classic in the genre for a good reason; it’s a hell of a movie. While not particularly scary, it’s still got its moments and it remains one of the most well-known zombie movies of all-time. Until Shaun of the Dead came along, Return was the gold standard for the zombie-comedy.



Stay gory my friends,

Larry Dwyer

Larry Dwyer
Larry Dwyer has been writing for Horror News Network since 2012. Catch up with him on Twitter at @LarryDwyer and read his in-depth bio on our About Us page.

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