Movie Review: The Return of the Living Dead

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I’m taking some vacation time this week, so I have been digging up some old favorites and the first was The Return of the Living Dead. This 1985 classic horror-comedy is a one-of-a-kind movie that manages to successfully blend humor, gore, and 1980’s punk rock music. And although it has spawned numerous sequels and rip-offs, The Return of the Living Dead has never been matched.

The movie begins with Freddy, a young kid who just got a job at a medical supply warehouse and his boss, Frank, shows him around the place. Then Frank tells Freddy that the events from Night of the Living Dead was actually real and he has some of those zombies in the basement. When he goes to show them off to Freddy, Frank accidentally releases the gas from the drum and it spreads throughout the warehouse. The gas also knocks them out too and when they wake up, they call Burt, the owner of the store, to figure out how to fix their mess.

Burt decides to bring the reanimated bodies to Ernie, the mortician, and they burn the body in the incinerator. But the smoke from the body mixes with the rain and causes all of the corpses in a nearby cemetery to rise up and begin to go after the humans nearby. When the plague of brain-thirsty zombies gets too much for them to handle, the U.S. Army is called and they wipe out the zombies along with the entire city.

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The film was directed by Dan O’Bannon, a man with only three directorial credits to his name. However, O’Bannon has been involved in the writing process of some of the biggest sci-fi and horror films in the past 30 years. His writing credits include work on Prometheus, Total Recall, and the Alien series. The cast is full of unknowns or with a few genre regulars. Clu Gulager played Burt and is known for many movies, including A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Linnea Quigley plays Trash, one of the punk kids in the film. She has one of the most infamous scenes in the movie as she dances in the graveyard and then is naked throughout the rest of the movie as well. She is a scream queen that has starred in numerous horror films, especially low-budget cult films. And The Return of the Living Dead also features to alumni from the Friday the 13th series. Thom Mathews stars as Freddy and played Tommy Jarvis in 1986’s Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI while Miguel A. Nunez Jr., who plays Spider, played Demon in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, also released in 1985.

The Return of the Living Dead is a great cult movie that has stood the test of time. Watching it again takes me back to the late 1980’s and early 90’s when I first began to discover horror movies. It will never be any of Romero’s classic zombie films, but it was never meant to be that. Instead, director Dan O’Bannon made a good movie that will give you chills and make you laugh at the same time that can still be enjoyed 30 years later. It is a must-see for any horror fan.

Daryl Karpinski Jr.

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