Widely considered a cult classic and must see film for aficionados of the zombie sub-genre, The Return of the Living Dead released in 1985 is easily deserving of its reputation. The Return of it the Living Dead has an interesting relationship with Night of the Living Dead, as Romero and Russo couldn’t agree on the direction the series should take, they split with Russo’s sequels being referred to the Living Dead and Romero’s as simple The Dead.
The Return of the Living Dead opens with two medical supply warehouse workers Frank (James Karen) and Freddy (Thom Mathews), who on Freddy’s first day accidentally break the seal on a military container containing a Zombie, leaking the gas Trioxin. The Trioxin knocks out Frank and Freddy and seeps through the warehouse resurrecting a stored cadaver. When Frank and Eddy they find the barrel empty, believing the body to have melted they pair is forced to deal with the resurrected cadaver. Frank is forced to call in help from his boss Burt (Clu Gulager). After Burt’s arrival the trio discovers that destroying the brains doesn’t kill the zombie. After dismembering the corpse Burt asks for aid from his neighbor Ernie (Don Calfa), a mortician for the use of crematorium to destroy the body. He agrees from a favor down the road. The body burns releasing the Trioxin in the air where it gets caught in a rain cloud and starts pouring down infected rain onto the surrounding cemetery. The cemetery where while all this was happening, Frank’s girlfriend Tina and their cadre of fellow punk rock friends Scuz, Suicide, Trash, Casey and Chuck have been partying to pass the time till he gets off. The tainted rain fall upon Tina and her friends, who escape to their car. But shortly after wreck it and take refuge in the warehouse where they find the thought dissolved corpse Tarman (Allen Trautman). Tarman kills Trash and the group flee to the mortuary. The group splits up in the graveyard when the witness the dead rise with Casey and Chuck fleeing back to the warehouse and the rest except Trashs make it to the mortuary. Burt and Ernie learn of the resurrected bodies resulting the group trying to survive as events continue to spiral out of control.
The Return of the Living Dead has been on my radar for quite some time as I’m a big fan in this series third installment. But I have only recently found myself with the opportunity to see it. This is a film that I’m kicking myself for not seeing earlier. While my strong nostalgic ties make it close it no longer holds the distinction of being my favorite in the series. I had seen parts over the years and was well aware of some of the films more famous scenes, I was unprepared for just how good this film is.
I really enjoy multiple aspects of this film with the foremost being the humor. The Return has a great ability to switch gears from the more slapstick style moments to0 much darker ones such as characters being besieged in lockers. This is in large part to the films amazing soundtrack that perfectly fits the style and mood of the film.
The acting in the film hits the mark with just the right amount of camp to serious. Everyone seems to be having a good time and it really shows. My favorite scene is one with very little humor or gore and that was during Franks self cremation. The scene plays off very sad and is one that frequently came to mind after viewing this film.
So final thoughts, I love it. While not a perfect film, it never really aspires to be. After doing well at the box office The Return of the Living Dead has managed to stay by so strongly influencing today’s modern zombie. With nothing but enjoyable performance, a rocking soundtrack and a host of memorable scenes Return of the Living Dead remains a must watch and achieves a perfect rating 10/10.