Return of The Living Dead/Review

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Review of Return of The Living Dead

Before Edgar Wright successfully blended horror with comedy to give us a memorable zombie movie called Shaun of the Dead in 2004, there was this little gem from Dan O’Bannon that used the exact same formula twenty years earlier. Saying that Return of The Living Dead is a good zombie movie is a huge understatement. Personally speaking, it is my favorite zombie movie of all time. I have the most divine respect for Romero and Fulcis' golden contributions to the zombie sub-genre, but ROTLD is the movie that entertains me the most. The reason is quite simple – it has everything you look forward to in a grindhouse type of film. Gore? Check. Gratuitous nudity? Check. A killer soundtrack? Check. Cool zombies? Check. Sure, it may be missing some sort of message or social commentary George Romero loved to include in his work. But ROTL was not filmed to give us some deeper meaning of life. It was filmed for the purpose of knocking our socks off. And in that respect, it succeeds with flying colors.

The movie begins with Freddie’s first working day at a medical supply warehouse while he is being lectured by Frank, his new work colleague, on how to do many interesting jobs like packing skeletons in a wooden box. Before you know it, Frank is telling Freddie about a canister found in the warehouse’s basement which had previously belonged to the military and which contained a harmful, toxic gas capable of bringing the dead to life. Freddie becomes totally fascinated by the whole thing, and both of them rush to the basement in no time to take a look at the canister. Unfortunately for them, they unwittingly release the toxic gas in the air and total chaos shortly ensues. To make things worse, the warehouse has a fresh cadaver just ready to be re-animated in the storage room. To make things even worse, the warehouse is also located near an abandoned cemetery where Freddie’s punk friends happen to be drinking, partying, stripping and basically having a good time. It is up to them to fight the undead and save the world from zombie domination.

I can list a hundred reasons why everybody should watch this movie at least once in his life. However, one reason is above all the rest – Linnea Quigley’s body needs to be appreciated by every heterosexual male on the face of the planet. The character she plays is called Trash, and she spends approximately half a minute of her screen-time clothed. All the other scenes featuring her make you feel grateful that there are pause and rewind buttons on your remote, because you won’t ever get enough of her. Despite her supporting role in the film, it is safe to say that she steals the whole show.

It should also be noted that before the remake of Dawn of the Dead, it was ROTLD that was mainly responsible in promoting the idea of running zombies to the general public. Some may argue that Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City was the first movie to introduce this notion, but it’s important to clarify the fact that in that case the infected were not dead corpses to begin with, much like the virus explanation in 28 Days Later. In the case of ROTLD, the running undead were resurrected from a graveyard, which was a relatively fresh take on the genre at the time. And the zombies being able to run worked tremendously well in this case, as it made them both creepier and funnier (watch out for the classic scene with the midget zombie running after one of our heroes).

Perhaps the biggest compliment that could be given to this movie is that it succeeds tremendously well in mixing horror with comedy; something which very few movies manage to do. When a movie manages to be both funny and scary in all the right doses, you know that you are witnessing something special. Many movies tried to copy the exact same formula after ROTLD came out (including its much inferior sequel), and they all ended up being lame and unfunny. Not in this case. Dan O’Bannon knew perfectly well what he was aiming for before the shooting, and he passed the test with flying colors. In a way, he can be compared to a chemist mixing doses of different potions in a test tube with the hope of obtaining something fresh and unique.

ROTLD truly is a must see for all horror movie aficionados. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re not even worthy to be called a horror fan. Rush to your nearest retail store and get a copy of this little gem from the 80s!

Reviewed by Johnny Favorite - 09/22/2007

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