Thursday, 3 May 2012

22/04/2012: The Return of the Living Dead [1985]

Anyone who is a fan of zombie movies will tell you that George A. Romero and John A. Russo where the two men who really kicked off the entire genre with their 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. A movie that has been remade and imitated countless times since. But Romero and Russo didn't stop there, and while they branched off, both have been major contributors in the zombie genre.

After Night of the Living Dead, Romero and Russo parted ways. Romero continued on in the movie industry, creating the Dead trilogy which later became a series, and consists of Dawn, Day, Dawn (again), Land, Diary and Survival of the Dead. I am a huge fan of Romero's films, as they offer an interesting viewpoint on society, which evolves over the stages of a zombie-apocalypse. However, I have never ventured farther than a partial watch or two into the John A. Russo spawned The Return of the Living Dead series. I am now attempting to remedy this shameful secret.

As of writing this I have seen the first 3 of TROTLD (what is a 5ilogy?) Pentology! (I'm using my knowledge of naming hyrdrocarbons there). I'll review the 3rd one formally, but the 2nd will just be tacked on at the end of this one. But for now let us discuss The Return of the Living Dead a classic horror comedy all in itself.

It is the comedy aspect of horror-comedy that marks one of the biggest differences. John A. Russo who help Romero write Night of the Living Dead had it original written TROTLD's script on a much more serious tone, but it was changed to the more humourous and comedic form in order not to but heads with Romero's movies to much. This aspect is why the Return of the Living Dead series is significantly different than Romero's Dead series, and why I don't compare them.

 As you can see above, TROTLD was a square movie, released in 1985 on VHS. The only reason it made it to DVD was due to the work of a diehard fan, Michael Allred, who we all have to thank for the preservation of this classic. So what makes it classic?

First off, the Living Dead as seen here, are the true zombies who crave brains. While this is a sometimes used zombie cliche, it is not always standard amongst the many variations of zombies. However, the Living Dead very much crave brains, can only be destroyed by being blow or burnt to a million pieces, and are  both fast and capable of intelligent thought and speech. Also 2-4-5 Trioxin is what re-animates the dead in this series, regardless of species or amount of decay, or even if you're alive, Trioxin will have you up and kicking or barking in no time. Just remember to "Send... More... Paramedics."

If you can put the pieces together you will note that Frank here might be a Nazi in hiding.
So aside from the staple of the movie, zombies, what makes The Return of the Living Dead a classic horror-comedy? The characters of course! The mortician above, Frank is my personal favourite, although the other stars Burt and Ernie are good fun as well and no, they were not knowingly named after Sesame Street. Of course the most interesting looking characters are the gang of hooligans, consisting of names like Spider, Scux, Trash and Suicide. Between their graffiti'd car, multiple piercing, crazy hair colours and leather, the only thing more memorable is of course, scream queen Linnea Quigley's graveyard  strip scene.

All of the cast however do a great job of acting scared, and yet keeping everything outrageous and hilarious. I think one of the things I noticed about this movie was that it actually featured a hell of a lot of screaming. Something associated with scary movies, and yet rarely occurring in the volume it does here. The zombies also do a great job acting, for once even getting a few lines such as the classic "Send... more... paramedics" and even a conversation.To top it off, some of the extras are actually eating cow brains, that is dedication to the role.

"and so, I helped that lady carry her bags all the way home."
I won't get to far into the script, but it is an interesting one, that is thoroughly developed and was rather original. I enjoyed it a lot, and the three main settings are all great, and the scenes keep you entertained without getting repetitive or dragging on.

I will slip in my few words on this movies sequel The Return of the Living Dead II here. The sequel really doesn't bring anything new or exciting to the table in comparison to the first, while entertaining, it pales into mediocrity when compared to the greatness of the original, or at least that is what I felt about it. The third on the other hand is another beast entirely and I'll be sure to review it. Next it is on to the 4th and 5th but first I'll wrap this one up.

The Return of the Living Dead, is a horror movie I would recommend to anyone, especially any zombie fan. While I still prefer most of Romero's films, TROTLD is a great contrast to the seriousness of those movies, and is an all around good and fun time, and a deserving classic. I will definitely be continue on with the final two films, although I think that the first and third will be the best of the pentology. I leave you with the french poster, just because most of the other suck.

The Return of the Living Dead IMDb

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