Saturday, June 6, 2015

MR Return Of The Living Dead

Out of the original groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead, the most popular continuation is the rightful George A. Romero classic "Of the Dead" series.

But did you know the black & white classic was also continued by Night co-creator John A. Russo with his own zombie film series, "The Living Dead" series?
When there's no more room in HELL, these reviews will walk the BLOG:

Movie: The Return of the Living Dead also known as Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead or John A. Russo's The Return of the Living Dead 
Directed by Dan O'Bannon 
Release date 1985
Genre Horror/comedy/Black comedy/B-movie/Zombie film
Country USA

Following the huge success of Night of the Living Dead in 1968, the idea of what would become a second installment in the "Dead series" became the source of a disagreements between the two creators George A. Romero and John A. Russo, which would cause a radical split in the series each filmmaker going on to follow their own directions and series on their own.  

 Since the original film ended in the public domain when the crew was unable to retain the rights of the original film due to a misunderstanding with their distributor, it allowed them both to continue making more of these films on each side. Each following its own continuity.  

While Romero would go on to produce five more "Of The Dead" films, Russo would do his own "Living Dead" series.  

Today's movie here is the direct sequel to Night John A. Russo would produce on his side, at the height of the success of Romero's "Trilogy of the Dead". Both this Return Of The Living Dead and Day of the Dead would be released the same year, in 1985.

The film is based on the novel of the same name written by John Russo. After parting ways with Romero on the film Night of the Living Dead, Russo was able to retain rights to the title "Living Dead". His original plan was to have the actual Return Of The Living Dead film adaptation directed by horror master Tobe Hooper. Dan O'Bannon was brought in to polish the script. Due to some scheduling issues, Hooper suddenly ended up leaving the project and the director role was offered to O'Bannon who was pretty involved with the film at this point. He had done the screenplay, and only asked for one last important rewrite if he was to do the film himself. It ended up a completely different film than what Russo intended, to differentiate it enough from Romero's films. In the end the film has very little resemblance to the original book!

The film is much more of a black comedy/zombie horror film!

Return Of The Living Dead stars Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa and legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley. And also Thom Matthews, aka the older Tommy Jarvis from Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI!

The story takes place in Louisville, Kentucky. It all begins in a medical supplies warehouse. This employee is trying to impress the new recruit, a guy named Freddy.

He tells him a secret - you know that black & white zombie film from the 60s? Night of the Living Dead? Turns it out it was actually based on a real incident that happened in a cemetery back in the day. Apparently a military experiment gone wrong. And right in that basement? They have storage container with the original remains the army tried to hide. Apparently it's a weaponized gas that escaped and contaminated dead bodies, the Trioxin gas. They decide to check on the mysterious container, butaccidentally release the original brain-hungry zombie virus. The body seems to escape. Has it just melted away?

To keep the situation contained, the bring the dismembered parts to the nearby cemetery to burn that down, only the gas starts spreading into the air...

Freddy's friends come to check him out at his new job. A bunch of punk kids, including this trashy goth girl with redhair named, well, Trash. They go wait for him at the graveyard. Freddy's girlfriend goes to look for him at the warehouse. This zombie that emerged from the tank, the "Tar Man", hadn't dissolved! He attacks her!

Meanwhile the burning zombie corpses lets the gas contaminate the air. A quick rainfall infects the cemetery, which starts reanimating all the nearby corpses and spreading the zombie virus!

Trash is killed exactly like she said would be the worst possible way to die! They're able to trap this much dangerous older zombie in the basement. The guys get infected by exposure to the poisonous gas, the symptoms get worse over time, apparently they can no longer be considered alive!

They call for help to use ambulances to escape. The zombies eat the paramedics and the police as they arrive on the scene. We get a funny scene as we find out exactly how smart these zombies can be - a zombie get on the radio and calls for more backup (more brains!). The now undead zombie Trash forms a zombie horde to attack our remaining living characters. They try to get to the police car outside the warehouse, a gasoline leak outside explodes the cars!

They're finally forced to face Tar Man in a last confrontation, and decapitate him.  They're able to call the military for help from the basement. But it's already too late, according to the army "the Easter Eggs have hatched", they activate a protocol to send a huge bomb to destroy Louisville from the map and wipe out the zombies. They're able to "contain" things, with less than 4000 dead causalities. The rain will finally wash everything away.. that is, if it's not infected already... And just when the President was about to visit the area...!

Return Of The Living Dead is a great comedic "horror comedy" film. A type of film very common at the time, thanks to classics like Evil Dead 2, Re-Animator or Brain Dead. Return is a pretty original zombie tale all things considered, bringing in a lot of different ideas and a fantastic perfect ending for the film.

Dan O'Bannon added a lot more slapstick and dark humor which really helped it stand-out amongst other zombie films.

It's a great zombie films, gory and really fun. On one hand it's a pure zombie film done right. But it's also pretty funny. And it works great as a sort of indirect sequel to the original Romero film.

The zombies in this film here are quite different from what was done by then, neither the slow or faster zombies, but instead far more clever zombies! They're not aimless cadavers, but hungry for brains!! Which really ends up working nicely for the dark comedy-morbid humor the film's going for.

It's also easily one of the best examples out there of a great directorial debuts in film history, in my eyes. O'Bannon really took care of this project from carefully (re)writing it to putting the pictures on film. It's such a fun and perfect experience, despite how difficult the production was for him at the time.

With great protagonists, a likeable group of characters. Great chemistry amongst the cast. And great tension. 

A really fun and inventive film. O'Bannon is a great filmmaker. The film has a great rhythm and humor to it. It can be funny, scary and gory all at the ame time! And it's all a very 1980s experience, complete with a random striptease scene thrown in for no reason (Romero films had basically no nudity in comparison), other than to foreshadow a pretty creepy death scene.

The "Tar Man" is fantastic and easily the standout creature of the film, performed by actor and puppeteer Allan Trautman (who worked a lot with Jim Henson on The Muppets).

The film ended up leaving quite a mark on pop culture, since it introduced to us the conscious zombies that love to eat brains. Excuse me, I mean "Braaaaiiins!!".

The film had a fairly huge success at the time despite being in direct opposition to Romero's Day of the Dead. But the audience was fairly in favor of horror comedy back then. It ended up winning a lot of awards such as Best Horror Film, Best Make-up, etc.

The brain-hungry zombies are still part of our pop culture today, despite so little of those being actually used in films (usually films seem to rely more on the mindless cadavers kind). But it was such a great idea to have the zombies apparently need to eat brains, not just human flesh.

Return Of The Living Dead is a really fun gift that just keeps on giving. Always fun on a rewatch, it's the perfect example of the best of the genre at the time, with a little bit of everything that made the genre in the 80s: blood, boobs, humor and camp!

The film also has a great rock 'n' roll and punk feel to it. Thanks to a great 80s punk kickass soundtrack. The film uses a lot of great licensed tunes, such as "Surfin' Dead" by The Cramps, "Eyes Without a Face" by The Flesh Eaters or also "Dead Beat Dance" by The Damned and many more! The original score was composed by Matt Clifford and Francis Haines. And it's equally fantastic, with a lot of great rock, punk and solid atmosphere.

Overall, Return Of The Living Dead is a really fun entertaining splatterfilm. A classic. Highly rewatchable. A perfect blend of horror and comedy, funny and scary. And it never fails into self-parody unlike some more recent attempts at a similar genre. 

It's easily one of the best horror comedies of all time, Highly Recommended!

Building the increase in zombie numbers through the film until the final epic climax! That's why it's one of my favorite classics

Dan O'Bannon made the film what it is today. His revision to the story made the final product quite different from John A. Russo's original Return of the Living Dead novel. The later sequels would slowly get closer to simple horror films and ditch the comedy, kind of like Romero's own Of the Dead series, sadly.

Return would go on to spawn its own film series, until 2005 there's been four Return of the Living Dead sequels with each new installment getting slightly darker and more serious as time went on, which is a shame since now they're basically just generic zombie films instead of doing their own original thing with the concept. Russo and O'Bannon would only be involved in this first film here above, the rest series having nothing to do with them, aside for sticking more or less to the rules established in this first film Return Of The Living Dead. The second film, Return of the Living Dead Part II, was released in 1988. It was written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn. Like all the later episode, much of the story revolves around the Trioxin gas barrels getting opened up by accident, the storyline having barely anything to do with the first film.

There were first plans for a proposed sequel by actor Don Calfa, which would have been called The Revenge of the Living Dead. Unlike the actual Return of the Living Dead 2, his pitch was meant to be a direct follow-up that would have picked up where the previous film ended. Once the bomb exploded, we would find out the army actually got the wrong address and it would have seen the return of several surviving characters. This story was adapted to a low-run comic book, which was only sent to a few publishers for a possible graphic novel, but it was sadly never picked up.

Since this series quickly ran out of Russo's hands, he would later do his own proper Zombie film series starting with a new cut of Night of the Living Dead for the 30th Anniversary Edition in 1998, which would get its own proper sequel Children of the Living Dead.

I give it:
3 / 3 Necronomicons!

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