Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Return of the Living Dead (1984)

Fear 1/5
Gore 4/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 1/5
80's Punker Mayhem 5/5

If you've never seen Dan O'Bannon's incredible film The Return of the Living Dead, then the words "send more cops" mean nothing to you. If you have, you're probably smiling right now. ROTLD is, maybe, the greatest zombie film of all time - I know, I know, that's a bold statement. But I think I truly believe that.

Starting at the very beginning of the film with a statement explaining that all of the events, names and places in this film are true, it is obvious this movie is going to be fun. The story revolves around two guys who work in a medical supply warehouse. While showing the ropes to the new guy, the old timer explains that the weirdest thing he has ever seen on the job is the canisters downstairs containing the bodies of the living dead. It turns out that Night of the Living Dead was based on real events. The Army was conducting tests with chemical agents and something went wrong as the dead suddenly came to life and attacked everyone. After cleaning up their mess, the military heard George Romero was shooting a film based on the events and coerced him into changing the story around so that the real events would never be exposed. Meanwhile, the remaining zombies were rounded up and stored in airtight canisters that were promptly shipped to the wrong location by accident.

This all makes for a fun little story until the old timer brings the new kid down to show him the canisters. When asked if they could possibly leak, old timer says "Hell no son, these were made by the Army Corps of Engineers!", kicks the side and is promptly sprayed with lethal toxic gas as the side of the canister ruptures. Cue opening credits.

There is so much that went RIGHT with this movie. The special effects, even 23 years later, are top notch with some excellent gore effects and fantastic zombies. 80's scream queen Linnea Quigley arrives on the scene and within seconds is totally naked...and stays naked for the entire movie. The script is smart, funny and grim with great dialogue and tons of creativity. The soundtrack is equally great, a real treat for fans of 80's "death rock" (45 Grave, The Damned, The Cramps, TSOL, etc.).

And for those of you who think that zombies were all slow and lumbering until 28 Days Later rolled around, think again. The zombies here are not only fast and very (re)animated, but can use tools (like winches) and can talk - the zombie interrogation scene where the half-bodied zombie lady explains why they eat brains is a riot. Oh, and unlike the zombies in every other zombie movie, they can't be killed. Not even if you take out their brain. They just keep going. It's fucking fantastic. Throw in some ridiculous postcard-punk characters with bad mohawk/mullet wigs and names like "Suicide" and "Trash", add a smattering of the word "rad" every now and then end it all with a big bang and you've got one hell of a zombie movie. Like I said, maybe the best ever.

- Complaint Department


the fucking beard said...

this is not only my favorite zombie movie ever, but probably my favorite movie of any genre ever. the soundtrack is fantastic, the two main characters work so well together that they were brought back (as different characters) as a duo in the sequel, and at the end everybody fucking dies. what's more it takes place in louisville in the 80's which has to both punk rock, but more importantly was a huge time and place for indie rock. now when i watch this film i try to imagine will oldham writing the first palace record while zombies run around outside his house. i can't say enough good things about this movie other than it terrified me as a kid and still entertains me to this day.

Cortez the Killer said...

Love this movie. One of the first horror movies that I ever saw as a wee lad. I remember watching it with a group of buddies at a sleep over at about age 9. I remember all the 'yucks' and 'grosses' every time a nugget of gory goodness was displayed. Now watching it years later, with a fondness for both zombie movies and punk rock, it certainly stands out as one of the best.

Joe said...

I came of age to this film. Probably seen it 100 times. I discovered The Flesheaters off of this! There is no way I could objectively review it. One of the all-time greats.