Jesse is a freelance writer, journalist and occasional artist from Perth, Western Australia. He enjoys movies, video games and punk rock. You can see the inner-workings of his mind unfold on his blog
Published January 30th 2013
You've got to let me EAT YOUR BRAAAIIIIN
Everyone loves a classic, and really, who isn't looking for a punk-rock fuelled zombie comedy from the '80s, bathing gleefully in its own irreverence. Return of the Living Dead is just that, and if you're a horror fan, you owe it to yourself to give this one a revisit.
Return of the Living Dead is basically a quasi-sequel to George Romero's 1968's zombie classic Night of the Living Dead. We begin with a healthy dose of exposition where one of our leads tells the 'true' story of the making of Night and how the filmmakers had to change the story to avoid prosecution. The 'truth' is that there was a chemical spill that leaked into a morgue that made the corpses come to life. This chemical was accidentally shipped to the fair warehouse, where we lay our scene. There's a bit of buffoonery and the chemical leaks again resulting in the dead rising from their graves, returning for the brains of the living.
Return of the Living Dead is a pretty quirky movie and a lot of its charm comes from its unorthodox treatment of the undead. We're subtly lead away from all the 'rules' introduced with Romero's original and settle in for something fresh. The zombies here are just as humans, capable of cognitive thought, deduction, and coherent speech, only rotting and with an insatiable hunger for live brains. It's good and quick at establishing its own zombie 'rules' and subtly negates previous fiction, making you learn its own.
It's also without a doubt, one of the funniest zombie-comedies ever made, and most of its bizarre black-humour comes from the dialogue, with such conversation topics as skeleton farms in India, methods of body disposal, and of course, brains. The zombies are hilarious too, with a couple of scenes where they convince the chatter radio of an ambulance and a cop car to "send more units", resulting in hoards of zombies bolting out of the shadows to munch on whoever steps in to check the situation. There's also a brilliant resurrection scene with the undead crawling out of their graves to 45 Grave's 'Party Time' which always delivers a smile and never gets old.
The whole movie is soaked in the culture of its era. It reeks of the '80s, from its brilliant synthesiser score and punk rock style, to the unique campy atmosphere and chunky gore effects that can only be found in '80s horror. It's a perfect example of horror-comedy of the decade, and has a similar vibe to Re-Animator or The Evil Dead II with its human-like living dead and playful dark-humour.
Return of the Living Dead is a classic for a reason. Its black-comedy charm and playfulness give it an almost universal appeal, while still remaining creepy and atmospheric at times. It's a perfect blend of horror and comedy and that balance drives the movie home to its pedestal as a cultural icon. It stacks up well with other horror classics of the time like Dawn/Day of the Dead and The Evil Dead II, and it's something you need to revisit.