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The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

A 1985 movie directed by Dan O'Bannon.

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A good zombie satire.

  • Aug 1, 2011
*** out of ****

"The Return of the Living Dead" is a simple, clever, and very fun take on the zombie-comedy movement of zombie cinema. It carries with it some fairly intelligent satire, some solid slapstick, and a whole lot of fun nonetheless. Zombie -movie-die-hards will probably love it; and those unassociated with the genre on a fanboy level might enjoy it too. I know that I enjoyed it so much that the least I can do is, yes, watch the sequel.

The film catches the interest of its admirers almost immediately. A young man goes to work at a medical supply warehouse, and while he's there, he accidentally plays a part in releasing a toxic chemical in the form of a gas. It revives the dead from their graves.

Now, here's the interesting part: the young man's boss tells him that the barrel containing the gas actually contained the substance that was the source of inspiration for George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead". Therefore, I suppose the zombie movies are reality, in the universe of this film, at least. This I liked, because it gave the movie so much more to work with.

There's also an ignorant party of teenagers that go to walk-about, dance-about, and drink/smoke at a local cemetery. This is where most of the corpses are reanimated through the chemical released in the air and in the rain; and this is where the fun starts.

There's a typical fight-for-survival final act; which shouldn't be called a flaw, but rather another cliché that this tongue-in-cheek horror flick embraces. There are some truly hilarious scenes that hold the film together (one of them being the appearance of a detached and very much reanimated arm). The film seems to know what it is doing, and that's why it's so much fun.

The film's writer and director, Dan O'Bannon, had experience working along-side other filmmakers in this genre. He worked with John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper; and he has scripted more films than he has actually directed. He seems to know enough about zombie films to make one of his own, and make it good. He knows that Romero used his undead creations for good; as social satire. I'm not sure if this film is all about its zombies, and more-so its laughs, but the zombies are still entertaining. There's even one zombie that appears to have comically large teeth. Joy!

The film doesn't need a big-budget to succeed. The make-up effects involved are pretty good, the zombies look decent enough, and the thing is just-plain-fun. It packs gore, creativity, and entertainment value, and it's one of the finest zombie comedies I have seen.

But if zombies are not satirized, where do they stand? The zombie film is fading; and for good reason. It is films like the classics, and "Return of the Living Dead", that give us all hope. This is merely a good self-aware zombie-comedy that succeeds at just about everything it does. I don't think it overachieves, and that is why it doesn't get full marks, but I do think that it works miraculously as a good zombie movie, and a comedy; or both at the same time. It's not for everyone, but if you can find humor in the undead, then there's plenty of tasty morsels to be found here. Long live the dead.

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More The Return of the Living Dead reviews
review by . May 13, 2009
This horror/comedy kind of take-off on Night of the Living Dead was surprisingly good. It goes under the assumption that the Night of the Living Dead movie was based on a true happening. Except it really was a failed top-secret government experiment. As this whole thing is explained to two unsuspecting young men, they accidently release the top secret gas that starts to animate all dead things. The dead come walking demanding "brains." In this one it seems it is impossible to totally kill any of …
review by . August 21, 2009
Return of the Living Dead was a spoof/homage and sequel to the zombie genre and Night of the Living Dead. A couple of workers in a medical supply warehouse are fooling around and "accidentally" open an old oil drum that was holding a nasty looking cadaver. After a mysterious toxic gas escapes from the the cheaply made container the two workers become gravely ill from it's after effects. Meanwhile a car load of punks are coming by to pick up their friend who happens to work in the medical …
review by . March 26, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
"Over the top" doesn't even begin to describe this film. It's a rare movie that works as a satire of a beloved genre (NIGHT & DAWN OF THE DEAD) and stands more or less alone as a credible horror movie on its own. Unlike something like SCARY MOVIE, which has no pretensions of telling a serious story amidst all the humor, this one is a great zombie movie first, and a gentle parody second.Set primarily in a medical supply warehouse, a funeral home and a graveyard (how's that for a trifecta of great …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Loosely based upon a novel written by John Russo.

Originally was going to be in 3-D and directed by Tobe Hooper.

Followed by four sequels.

Part of Russo's ...Living Dead series.

The first film of the Return of the Living Dead series.
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