HISTORY OF THE LIVING DEAD
“Return of the Living Dead” is often confused with being a sequel to “Night of the Living Dead“, but it is not. “Night of the Living Dead” was the first true zombie film. It was directed by George A. Romero and written by Romero as well as John A. Russo.
The copyright was never properly filed on “Night of the Living Dead”, and thus it entered the public domain. Nevertheless the film was success so obviously a sequel was going to be made. Two sequels actually. At the same time. George A. Romero and John A. Russo split and each made their own sequel to the movie.
It is said that they split it up as Romero would have the “Dead Series” and Russo would have the “Living Dead series”. Russo ended up making a book called “Return of the Living Dead“ that was turned into a movie. The director Dan O’Bannon, who wrote “Alien” and “Total Recall”, didn’t want to encroach upon Romero’s work and wanted to change the title. The producers fought him, thinking they would be able to capitalize on the success of “Night of the Living Dead”, and thus make more money. They won the fight and the title stayed, but O’Bannon injected comedy and a comic vibe to the movie to distance itself from Romero’s more serious films.
They attempted multiple times to contact Romero and offer him a role as producer but he never answered. “Return of the Living Dead” first began production at the same time as “Dawn of the Dead” even though the films came out 7 years apart. “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) and “Return of the Living Dead” (1985). “Dawn of the Dead” is a masterpiece, but would you believe that “Return of the Living Dead” is really good too?
There is a long conversation about the movie “Night of Living Dead” within the film and unlike many zombie movies, it is more than willing to say the word zombie. I have never understood why most zombie movies are afraid of saying that word. It’s as if they think that saying the word takes power away from them. This was parodied excellently in “Shaun of the Dead”.
“Return of the Living Dead” does not take itself seriously at all. That is my favorite aspect of the movie. The movie is self aware of how ridiculous it is, and has fun with itself. It goes over the top and has a great time. The acting is appropriately over the top to match the style of the film, as well as the special effects.
The special effects are great. Classy practical effects dominate the show here, zombies look great and they follow the old concept of designing each zombie as if it were a person before who died, rather than just a dirty bloody person. There are some standout special effects such as the mostly decayed zombie that get’s interrogated and the ever impressive “Tar Man”. The visual style including the zombies, were inspired by E.C. Horror comics like tales from the crypt. The film’s signature zombies had a lot of time invested into them and are very memorable.
The acting is a bit mixed. The adult actors are all great, Burt, Ernie and Frank are all great characters, and Ernie played by Don Calfa is one of my favorite horror movie good guys. The other section of the cast is the teenagers. The casting process was not strict with them. In fact signs were put up on local message boards listing the roles and saying a few specific requirements, such as “Must be willing to shave head.” Some of them are not so great and can be a little annoying, but then you have the characters of Trash and Suicide who are great, and hilarious.
“You think this is a costume, nah, this is a way of life” is a quote that any fan of this movie will forever remember. Other quotes such as “Send more paramedics” can weed out the true fans.
The character of Trash walks around naked for most of the movie. I first saw the TV version of “Return of the Living Dead” and it was censored to hell. Her character is pretty much just a floating blur the entire movie, it wasn’t until I got my DVD that I realized there was another character in the movie. The producers thought her nudity was jarring and thus she wears a barbie, skin colored flat crotch piece for a good portion of the movie.
The movie is not a flat out comedy, so do not go in thinking it is, but “Return of the Living Dead” does have a great sense of humor and silliness that makes the movie a fun ride. Its 91 minutes run time goes by very fast and when it ends it might leave you wanting a little more. Supposedly there is an alternate version of the film that adds an extra 24 minutes to the runtime, that’s a pretty significant cut that was made and I’d be interested to see that extra footage.
I highly recommend “Return of the Living Dead“. It’s a zombie movie that belongs in every horror fanatics collection. For a long time this film was unavailable on DVD, a fan campaign was actually started to make it available.
Thankfully it is now for sale. You can buy it on blu-ray by clicking right “HERE”. Keep checking back all October long for a new horror review everyday of the month with this year’s Macabre Month of Horror.
- The Collection (2012) – Macabre Month of Horror 2013 #8 (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- Session 9 (2001) – Macabre Month of Horror 2013 #11 (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- Macabre Month of Horror 2013 movie review #10 ‘The Ward’ (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- Macabre Month of Horror movie review #1 ‘Pieces’ (1982) (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- House of Wax – Macabre Month of Halloween Horror 2013 #9 (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- The Macabre Month of Horror 2013 movie review #2 Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- Vacancy (2007) – Macabre Month of Halloween Horror 2013 #4 (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- John Carpenter’s Vampires – Macabre Month of Halloween Horror 2013 #3 (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- Macabre Month of Horror 2013 movie review #7 ‘The Host’ (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)
- The Orphanage (2007) Macabre Month of Horror #6 (greencarbon2112.wordpress.com)