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This is one of those very rare films that combines good black humor with
bloody, messy gore and does it perfectly. Where `Children Shouldn't Play
With Dead Things' fails miserably, `Return of the Living Dead' succeeds
triumphantly. It takes a tired plot (zombies eat teenagers) and makes it
new again. The teenagers here are not faceless, stupid, oversexed victims
at all. They are misfits and outsiders, the kind of kids who probably go to
horror movies every day and make fun of the faceless, stupid, oversexed
victims who populated the majority of the slasher films made in the 1980s.
The nihilistic punk rock teens can identify with the zombies, and even
though it is their ultimate fate to be consumed by them, you like them, you
want them to survive and you're sorry to see them go even though the zombies
are every bit as cool.
Long before `28 Days Later' appeared, `Return of the Living Dead' presented us with FAST zombies, zombies who could run, jump and work together like a football team, tackling people and making it a group effort to tear their victims apart. There are very few slow, shuffling monsters here; these are zombies to contend with. They talk, they think, they problem solve. Who could ever forget the Tar Man (my personal favorite) rigging up a device to tear down the metal closet doors, behind which our heroine has locked herself?
The adult characters in this film are no less interesting than the teenagers. James Karen is absolutely hysterical in his role as a medical warehouse manager, whose bumbling irresponsibility leads to the zombies being unleashed. Clu Gulager is a stressed out corporate jerk who will do anything to save the name and reputation of the warehouse he owns. And Don Calfa is excellent as the slightly shady mortician who may or may not be an ex-Nazi. The mismatched cast really comes together and forms a bond here, fighting back and growing more desperate as the zombies grow stronger. This film never lets up, not for one minute. There are no long explanation scenes, no boring set-up, just in-your-face excitement from the very first scene. It is the perfect homage to the Romero films; there is no happy ending here, only an ironic twist which will make even the most cynical doomsayer grin. This film is already a cult classic and deserves its status. It's as close to flawless as you can get.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is quite possibly one of the funniest movies ever
It succeeds not simply thru its humor but in the way that it takes the plot seriously. That is, the characters avoid doing anything cliché or 'movie-like'. They react to an amazingly unusual situation in a very logical, sensible way (even as things become more & more desperate). Consequently none of the humor is forced. It all comes from the combination of having to deal with all the insane things that are happening to them in the sanest way that they can. The contrast of these two makes for absolutely brilliant comedy.
» They have to kill an already dead guy so they put a pick axe thru his head.
» This doesn't kill him so they saw his head off.
» This still doesn't work so they decide to incinerate him in the neighbor's crematorium.
» In order to do that they make up a "rabid weasels" story to tell the neighbor.
All of these things, as hilariously ridiculous as they are, actually make sense in the context of trying to deal with the situation. In other words, if you found yourself confronted with re-animated corpses you would probably do exactly what they do to try and stop them. And even as the situation slowly progresses from bad to worse to desperate the film maintains this idea.
In fact, the film quite brilliantly maintains this idea at the very end. As over-the-top as the ending seemed I can completely picture the military wanting to do exactly that!
"The Return of the Living Dead" has held a special place in my heart for
very long time. This satirical take on Romero's classic (if you don't
which one, you shouldn't be reading this) is one of the greatest horror
films ever made and is also one of the most respected. The direction by
O'Bannon, writer of "Alien" (also one of the greatest), is superb and
Brenner's cinematography is stunning for a film not shot in a widescreen
aspect ratio (it was shot 1.37:1 full frame to save money). The scene
the rising of the zombies is best described as hauntingly beautiful yet
chilling. The cast gives great performances and the special effects are
astounding, as is Matt Clifford's rousing score. The nasty going-ons is
highlighted by a powerful metal soundtrack featuring The Cramps and Billy
The plot concerns some nasty chemical that has the ability to bring the dead back to life. When a barrel of the stuff is accidentally opened, all hell breaks loose: the cast is forced to do battle with scores of zombies (this time hungry for brains). Twists and turns abound as the cast is trapped at Ground Zero-the epicenter of the plague, if you will. All of the characters are likely even though they are mostly sleazy and corrupt. Linnea Quigley is great as Trash as is Clu Gulager as the corrupt warehouse owner. The zombies themselves are fun to watch; be warned, however, that they are not the usual slow, shuffling stiffs we've all come to love.
All in all, "The Return of the Living Dead" is an amazing thrill ride that will remain in your mind long after it's over. Do yourself a favor and seek out this cult classic. You won't regret it!
I saw this film when I was around 9 or 10, and I remember loving it
back then. Unfortunately, time has not been kind to most of the movies
I enjoyed during my youth. Imagine my surprise when I realized that not
only was Return of the Living Dead every bit as much fun as when I
first saw it, its actually improved!!
First off, this is NOT a serious horror film. It is meant to be viewed as a comedy. Period. Once this perspective is taken, the horror elements are subtly introduced until, towards the end, we almost begin to feel a sense of disgust with ourselves for laughing at these people. I say ALMOST because a few silly decisions here and there (it would have been nice if the movie hadn't ended with recycled footage) turn what could have been the finest, and most disturbing, horror-comedy EVER MADE into a merely excellent one.
Honestly, I challenge anyone to find a "horror-comedy" that delivers laughs, gore, some genuine scares, and combines it with what can only be called the finest acting I've ever seen in a horror-comedy (much less one from the 80's!).
James Karen, Clu Gulager, and Don Calfa absolutely STEAL this movie with their sidesplitting hysterics. Listen to the lines, note the deliveries. These guys are pros! Anyone who could THINK to call their acting "wooden" clearly knows nothing about the traps horror-comedies often fall into. Personally, I was thinking of the OD scene from Pulp Fiction the entire time. The absurdity mixed with tension was eerily similar. Tarantino (an admitted zombie-movie fan) must SURELY have seen this movie upon its initial release. Gulager in particular is just plain brilliant here, he's like a burned out shop teacher fighting zombies!!
This film is a hidden treasure in a genre all too often plagued by mediocrity.
ROTLD is one of the rare cases where horror meets comedy to good effect.
With some classic lines like "you gotta hit the brain" and "watch your mouth
kid if you like this job", this film works because it doesn't rely solely on
gore or stupidity; the script is very well written.
ROTLD pays homage to George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" but veers away from the slow lumbering zombies of the '68 classic, and instead gives us "the original" super zombies (ie before 28 days later or Dawn of the Dead remake) that are not so easily dealt with! This proves to be an interesting problem for the script to resolve which I think it does with style by the end of the movie.
The characters are a little predictable and one dimensional except for the lead pair who are introduced at the start of the movie, but that's perhaps the only flaw. What I really like about this movie is that, whilst not entirely a gorefest, it still manages to kick-ass because of the flawless plot. By this I mean that there a few scenarios where you find yourself saying "that's just dumb" or "they'd never do that" etc, which is very rare nowadays in the horror/sci-fi genre. Dramas & thrillers etc get an easy job of it because all they have to do is convince us that their reality is real-life. Horror on the other hand needs to convince that the unreality it portrays is what is real-life, and that's not always an easy task.
ROTLD is funny, sick, clever and above all entertaining if you can stomache some pretty twisted content. Personally, I love it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Back in 1985 this movie was deemed "unreleasable" by its studio. They
(purportedly) re cut it and quietly opened it. To their surprise it was
a sizable hit leading to two sequels. I saw it twice when it came
out--this movie REALLY delivers the goods to horror fans.
It starts off by saying all the events in this movie are true (???). It focuses on 2 warehouse workers played by Thom Mathews and James Karen. It turns out that the movie "Night of the Living Dead" was based on fact and the dead bodies are stored in the basement in air tight canisters with some gas keeping them asleep. One of the canisters breaks open, the dead guy comes to life and all hell breaks loose. Also, the gas leaks into a graveyard next door and all the dead people come to life...hungry for brains! And how about that group of punk kids hanging out in the graveyard--including Linnea Quigley who spends 99.9% of her screen time nude? Also, unlike "Night of..." these zombies move FAST and bullets don't hurt them...
This movie is strange. It pays homage to old zombie horror flicks and goes of on its own direction. The annoying, constantly swearing bunch of punk kids are only there to be victims--and they inexplicably have an innocent, sweet girl with them--Tina played by Beverly Randolph. The first half is very funny--expertly mixing laughs with some truly scary, gory moments. The laughs disappear completely for the second half. Then on in its a gore show and VERY disturbing. It's moves extremely quick, there are tons of people killed, the number of zombies is incredible, the special effects are great and the blood goes flying. But the change from humor to horror is jarring and some of the stuff at the end is VERY disturbing (Karens and Mathews' slow deaths are very upsetting and painful to watch and hear).
This movie is also helped by good acting. The punk kids are by the numbers (except for Randolph who is kind of fun), but Mathews is good and Karen and Gulager are hilarious in their respective roles. They all play it reasonably straight and it helps.
Gory, scary, funny--a definite must-see for horror fans. This film deserves more recognition than it's gotten.
Best line: "I think things are getting a little out of hand."
I love this film to living death ... Every actor got the right part, and they all got the part right. High camp, higher parody, positively hilarious scenes so well set up that a mere facial gesture delivers the punchline, sometimes only a few beats of music delivers. In the midst of all this ripping off of Romero's "Night of the Living Dead", it borders on worship of its inspiration. Pathos holds hands with hilarity, genuinely creepy scenes bleed into high gear humor. I haven't found a misstep. There is a high quotient of "Oh s**t" scenes and they all work. The undraped Quigley is neither gratuitous or prurient; just imagine the movie without her character; loses much. This is a delicious, feverish living dead romp that plays out to one crackerjack musical score. Everything meshes, everything works. How do you fault a film that gets it all right? This title will survive a long long time.
"Return of the Living Dead" is an often hilarious, often frightening,
disgusting, and always entertaining horror comedy. The cast is great, the
dialogue is snappy and very quotable, and the special effects still hold
very well, nearly 20 years after the film's release. Fans of the horror
genre, 1980s buffs, or just folks who enjoy something different
will most likely get a kick out of it.
The best comedy is played straight, and there are few films "straighter" than horror movies (in which the intent is, ostensibly, to terrify). Dan O'Bannon's "straight comedy" is gut-bustingly funny. [I also remember being impressed by his performance in the delightful DARK STAR, which turned up at an art house showing along with the STAR WARS parody, HARDWARE WARS.] Intense, and boasting great music and some of the best performances ever seen in a fright film (including Clu Gulager, James Karen and Don Calfa, veterans all, whose frantic on-screen antics are the cornerstones of this film), RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of those "must-see" movies no serious fan should miss. The cinematography is simply stunning, and the fx are 100% believable. It's amazing that O'Bannon hasn't directed more often: it's clear that he belongs behind a camera.
The best $10 dollars I ever spent was buying The Return of the Living Dead
This is such a kick ass zombie movie its my favorite I enjoy this movie more than "Dawn of the Dead" the best thing about this flick is the outstanding cast I love everyone in this movie they made it all happen with Dan O'Bannon and the crew Return of the Living Dead is a classic point-blank!
Overall IMO this is the best horror/comedy movie of all time I think its tops Evil Dead everything this movie is a must see it still kicks ass after so many years.
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