Return of the Living Dead (1985)

   
Written & Directed by: Dan O'Bannon

Story: Rudy Ricci, John A. Russo and Russell Streiner (Story)

Starring:

Clu Gulager .... Burt Wilson
James Karen .... Frank
Don Calfa .... Ernie Kaltenbrunner
Thom Matthews .... Freddy
Beverly Randolph .... Tina
John Philbin ... Chuck
Jewel Shepard .... Casey
Miguel A. Nunez Jr .... Spider
Brian Peck .... Scuz
Linnea Quigley .... Trash
Mark Venturini .... Suicide

Release Date: Theatrical: August 16, 1985

*Images courtesy at: www.thefleshfarm.com

Rating:

 

A couple of bumbling pair of employees at an army surplus store named Frank (James Karen) and Freddy (Thom Matthews) accidentally releases a deadly gas from a U.S. military cannister which awakens some corpses there and are hungry for human brains. They also found out that the rumour of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead was a true story.

Meanwhile a group of wild teens break into a graveyard that is nearby the store and decides to party there. Frank and Freddy chop up a zombie's body and places the parts in bags. They then go to a cremator named Ernie Kaltenbruner (Don Calfa) and burns the body at a nearby Mortuary ordered by the owner there named Burt Wilson (Clu Gulager). However, the ashes create a storm which leads to acid rain and wakens the dead at the graveyard. The teens are being chased by these brain eating zombies and hide at the surplus store.

During this moment, two paramedics check for Frank and Freddy's pulse as they are ill from the gas but finds no pulse from them at all. Outside of the store, the zombies keep on killing policemen and paramedics that try and come to the rescue.

Some of the people inside of the store manages to grab a hold of one of the zombies to find out why they eat human brains and the zombie tells them that it's to kill their pain.

 

There's an impressive start here which we spot two bumbling employess named Frank instructing Freddy on what to do as well as good corny one liners on discussing about where skeletal bodies came from and George A. Romero's clssic film being based on a true story as this was fun to put in which watching this flick proving it to be a worthy spoof for sure. Plus good shots and situations on some corpses but away in a storage room canned up as this looked perfectly creepy and having a dark feeling that something is about to go wrong here especially when we see an accident happening as this looked really effective along with the opening credits starting to happen showing some perfect timing here. A nice shot looking up on both of them walking down to the cellar of the mortuary to look at a toxic barrel cannister of a corpse inside as well as a nice shot on a gas blowing out of the can with them falling down choking. During this moment there's a good shot on a corpse inside it changing it's colors.
Also more slapstick humor between the two of them when they spot some situations come to life in which some of it seems a bit sick to watch and not funny at all even if it was trying hard to be this way. There's some strong slapstick moments when they try to struggle against a yellow cadavier trying to attack them and they pin it down and saw his body parts off which should please horror fans that like this type of black comedy into their film here. This moment looked well done.
There's a good camera looking up on a cremator
Ernie Kaltenbrunner listening to music while doing work on a corpse which looked a bit humoress.
Perfect camera shot on a bunch of wild punks driving in a vehicle storming towards a graveyard along with humoress situations on the driver named Suicide not paying attention to drviing his car and getting aggressive with Trash trying to take over as this was another great moment for an 80's comedy horror such as this one to have written in.
There's a funny moment with the head employer Burt Wilson talking to Ernie on what is in some bags telling him they're rabid weasels and acting nervous about it. Then he shows a good shot unopening a bag showing him what they really are as well as a nice shot on a an arm falling out and grabbing Ernie's leg with him freaking out.
There's a great close up shot ona punk rocker type chick named Trash discussing with her friend Spider near a tombstone acting lustful about imagining how it would feel to be eaten alive and tearing off her top and then dancing on a gravestone stripping which was a nice funky moment like it was a Halloween party wanting to jump in and join this fun and exciting moment.
There's a terrific shot on the bags of body parts burning in the crematory room with the smoke from the smoke stack rising up in the air and then a thunderstorm breaks out with the partying punks in the graveyard freaking out and running to the car and getting nervous on what kind of acid rain it it. This looked perfectly intense.
There's a nice shot on the character Tina walking down the stairs in the mortuary which looked creepy and then the zombie we all remember in this flick named Tarman turning around to spot her with his eyes opening wide screaming BRAINS and her screaming trying to escape running up the stairs and the staircase breaks which looked suspenseful as you wonder if she will get away or not which looked very effective.
Perfect dark effective shots and effects surrounding the graveyard with something lurching around as well as fun moments on the dead rising from the grave including a skeletal corpse with eyes in which this moment was very well remembered to anyone who saw this flick.
There's nice moments with paramedics trying to check a pulse with Frank and Freddy discovering nothing as this for sure leaves an impression that they are the undead plus alot of over the top reactions on the two of them adding some silly moments with all of this happening. It doesn't seem funny when the writers tried so hard to make this moment happen this way.
There's also good angle shots on both paramedics in their ambulance with zombies dragging them out and eating their brains giving it a nice creepy feel to it. Also there's more situations like this when the police and other paramedics come and these zombie's attack and feast on them which looks truly disturbing to watch all of this.
Perfect terrorising shot on Tarman attacking Suicide by chomping on his head as well as perfect adrenalising reactions on his friends freaking out and trying to escape. Plus a perfect camera shot on Trash running outside and falling into a muddy puddle in which this makes you cringe for sure that the dead will get her since this looked perfectly well done by what we spot here.
Terrific intense situations with everyone struggling in a mortuary and zombie hands crashing through windows trying to get at them which packs a real punch with the suspense added into this scene. All of this was terrifically energised.
There's a nice shot on the character Scuz trying to escape the grips of a female zombie which looked believeably struggling wondering if he will survive from getting his skull bitten.
There's a nice moment with Burt talking to this female zombie as to why she eats human brains with nice shot effects on the Davis which looked very well done.
Nice touching moment with both Chuck and Casey trapped in a room to protect themselves from the dead and being upset on trying to stay alive as well as comforting one another in which this shows a nice seriousness to the story here. One of the best discussions in this flick ever.
Plus we have a perfect bizarre moment with neat slow motions on Freddy trying to attack Tina all of a sudden. Plus perfect struggling situations when she tries to get away from him too with him drooling as this adds a perfect touch to the horror story.
There's a nice shot between Ernie and Tina by locking themselves up in a cellar with Freddy pleading zombie like for them to open the door so he can eat a brain as it both looked comedic and terrorising.
There's good shots on Burt and Spider speeding away in a police car with features zombies swooming around them.
Bottom line is that this was truly the best horror zombie flicks of the 80's as you don't see films like this all that much nowadays. It shows alot of dark slapstick black comedy with horror mixed together since it was meant to be a spoof on George A. Romero's zombie flicks.
We have a perfect setting at the mortuary and at the graveyard scene's since they made this film look very dark as well an army of zombie's attacking anyone who arrives there making this moment very disturbing and having a bad feeling that there's no escape or stopping these brain hungry walking corpses.
This was incredibly entertaining and not a dull moment at all. However, there are the odd dull moments later on as the story sometimes drags but then it quickly picks up again earning this piece to be the highest rated zombie flick for this site. Even non zombie fans will get a kick by watching this since it's so 80's old school. Also the wardrobe people and make up artists did a fabulous job on the supporting cast members in which they looked very different than what you usually have seen them in other shows.
There are the odd good outdoor shots around a railroad of Los Angeles too.
Great effects and a perfect film to watch on Halloween night. Made on a good budget too. If you enjoy 80's horror then you'll love this one.

The acting is in good taste as lead actor Clu Gulager (Burt Wilson) played a perfect employer as a mortuary showing great obnoxious aggressions to his part in it along with proving that he showed a nice sense of humor to top it all off. He often played these types of roles since his energy level is very high while just doing what he does. He definetely was a great character actor for a horror film like this which helped him get work in other scary movies too although he's been a veteran actor years before this one came to be. He rolled in with the punches when trying to snuff out zombies. Plus in a scene does a nice job by acting nervous on a situation while trying to hide the truth on a topic which was pretty convincing to watch him perform like this.
James Karen
(Frank) totally stood out as an assistant employer at the mortuary with his silly behavior in it. He really knew how to freak out with all that was happening in the story and proved himself worthy for the story. Does well by getting into a conversation on his job while talking to his other employee along with really getting hyper and anxious for when the crazy moments start to happen as well. Plus does well by being out of it when he gets sick with his groaning offering some good slapstick here.
Ya gotta love Don Calfa
(Ernie Kaltenbrunner) as he lived to play a cremator in the film acting like a total goofball. He brought it up with his dark comedic behavior and brought up the pace with his performance too. A shame he was becoming a has been after the release on this one and working in low budget to independent flicks later on. Shows some good energy while freaking out after a zombie hand attacks his leg.
Cult icon Thom Matthews (Freddy) was wonderful as a teenage employee who really brought out his typical teenage attitude on set along with good facial expressions when he was slowly turning into a zombie. He also did well with his annoying groaning and freaking out too. He was terrific too when he turns and acting vicious which was his most energetic performance of them all just springing into action and going berserk. Two thumbs up for him indeed. He was a favourite with fans for this one which isn't a surprise at all.
Beverly Randolph
(Tina) looked perfect as that teenage 80's clean cut girl next door type showing alot of great characteristics to her part as well as doing well getting scared and crying on set too. Shows great energy when she is screaming and trying to get away from the terrors surrounding her too. She nearly had a promising career after this one but realised that acting wasn't for her which was a shame since I could see her going far.
I loved John Philbin (Chuck) since he was great acting annoying and playing a typical dweeb since he played different types in other shows and disguised himself well with wearing some glasses and a preppy looking outfit. He shows a perfect goofiness to his hyperactive speaking. Two thumbs up for him indeed.
Jewel Shepard
(Casey) was great acting emotional as well as acting snappy and sharp trying to not let anyone take advantage of her which she did believeably well. Comes across as a convincing bitch. Also does well with her frightened and sobbing behavior too really bringing this to life. She has a cult fanbase with her work in shows which isn't a surprise since she really knew how to act like an insecure teenager.
Miguel A. Nunez Jr. (Spider) was by far one of the best cast members showing great aggressions and the most energetic and outoging too. He was the type who can really bring up the tension for a horror flick like this one. This was his fisr major supporting role in a movie and it wasn't surprising that he went far in his life since he gave this film a very strong performance and can easily do so with future projects.
Linnea Quigley (Trash) lived to play her character as the sleazy punk and really stood out in this film and she achieved status as a scream queen. She knew how to have a skanky and lustful attitude and make her part truly gothic too. She almost stole the film with the scene's she was in during the graveyard party. Does well with her strutting and dancing too. One of her best performances ever. Although she did horror films before this one, many low budget and independent filmmakers casted her in their horror flicks and this film was her highest budget during her whole career.
Mark Venturini (Suicide) was another one who stood out as the head punk in the film with a nice big guy tough looks to him and really brought on the comedy with his actions on his griping towards others and acting very sour. Also does a great job by getting snappy and forceful too. He made his character very necessary for the plot.

Linnea Quigley is nude as her character Trash while she is dancing in a graveyard as Trash and stays nude when she becomes a zombie.

There was plenty of gore in this film.
Zombies biting the tops of peoples heads for their brains.
Also, there is a display of a cut in half small taxidermised dog is
A zombie is being cut to pieces.

The music was done perfectly for an 80's horror film by Matt Clifford with additional music by Robert Randles. They know their craft with horror films no doubt about it. We hear a good opening song with some bonging sounds as well as some eerie keyboard playing and high pitched synthesizer music. Through some of the storylines we hear a deep synthesizer sounds throught the plot too.

There's a perfect heavy metal and rockabilly soundtrack

We have a great tune by SSQ with the song "Tonight (We'll Make Love Till We Die" which is basically a song for Quigley's character as Trash while she strips down at the graveyard as well as being resurrected into a zombie herself. The song really suited the scene's incredibly well. Great female raunchy like attitude with the vocalising.
There's a terrific tune by 45 Grave with their nasty song "Partytime" for when the dead is about to rise as well as during the party at the graveyard. We also hear it for a short while during the end of the film too which is the theme song for the film giving it a nice fit for what the story was all about. Alot of wild and rasping vocalising with heavy guitar riffs and drum playing too. Everything about this song sounded powerful.
Another catchy tune for the film was by a rockabilly group from The Cramps with "Surfin Dead" which was used during the struggling moment when the survivors try to board up the windows from the zombie's. Also is played a bit on the closing credits too as there's a ton of funky energy with the guitar riffs and vocalising too.
One of my favourites was by Roky Erickson with "Burn the Flames" when Karen's character is about to go into a cremation oven after turning into a zombie as the song had a nice synthesizer weeping sound to it.
The soundtrack album is a great party type and is a must for headbanging horror fans.

Spider: I ain't in no mood to die tonight.

Frank: Watch your tongue boy if you like this job?
Freddy: Like this job

Suicide: How come you guys only come around when you need a ride someplace?
Spider: Cuz you're one spooky motherfucker sometimes.

Spider: What do you want to do, Scuz, turn over gravestones?
Scuz: No I just want to look around the graveyard I never seen one before.
Spider: You never been to a funeral?
Scuz: I never knew anyone that died.

Frank: Did you see that movie, "Night of the Living Dead"?
Freddy: Is that the one where all the bodies come to life and start eating all the people?
Frank: Yeah, did you know that was based on a true story?

Trash: Do you ever wonder about all the different ways of dying? You know, violently? And wonder, like, what would be the most horrible way to die?
Spider: I try not too think about dying too much.
Trash: Mm. Well for me, the worst way would be for a bunch of old men to get around me, and start biting and eating me alive.
Spider: I see.
Trash: First, they would tear off my clothes...
Chuck: Hey, somebody get some light over here, Trash is taking off her clothes again.

Song during Trash's dance: I once slept with the devil. It was really no big thrill.

Frank: International treaty, all skeletons come from India.
Freddy: No kidding, how come?
Frank: How the hell do I know how come? The important question is, where do they get all the skeletons with perfect teeth?

Suicide: You think this is a fuckin' costume? This is a *way of life.*

Casey: Hey, is that Freddy?
Chuck: Where?
Casey: Over there, going into that building.
Chuck: No. That is NOT Freddy.
Casey: How would you know?
Chuck: Because, why would Freddy be going into a mortuary?

Ernie Kaltenbrunner: What the hell is in those bags?
Burt Wilson: Rabid weasels.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: What? What the hell are you doing with a bunch of rabid weasels?
Burt Wilson: That's what I was trying to explain to you, they came in as part of a shipment. Of course, they weren't supposed to be rabid.

Burt Wilson: One question, Frank... This guy screaming in here, you sure it's a dead cadaver?
Frank: Why don't you open the door and find out?
Burt Wilson: Eh, I'm sorry Frank, I'll take your word for that

Burt Wilson: I thought you said that if we destroyed the brain, it would die.
Frank: It worked in the movie.
Burt Wilson: Well it ain't working now Frank.
Freddy: You mean the movie lied?

Chuck: Hey, Casey, do you like sex with death?
Casey: Yeah, so fuck off and die.

Paramedic #1: You have no pulse, your blood pressure's zero-over-zero, you have no pupillary response, no reflexes and your temperature is 70 degrees.
Freddy: Well, what does that mean?
Paramedic #1: Well, it's a puzzle because, technically, you're not alive. Except you're conscious, so we don't know what it means.
Freddy: Are you saying we're dead?
Paramedic #2: Well, let's not jump to conclusions.
Freddy: Are you saying we're dead?
Paramedic #2: No conclusions.
Paramedic #1: Obviously I didn't mean you were really dead. Dead people don't move around and talk.

Burt Wilson: I don't know what there gonna do. They say they got some kind of contingency planned.
Spider: What kind of plan?

Zombie: Send... more... paramedics.

Casey: Chuck, I never did like you. Oh, but God, hold me tight

Freddy: You made me break my hand completely off, Tina.

[Burt is on the phone to the police squad captain]
Burt Wilson: Listen, there's a bunch of people from the cemetery who are stark, staring, mad, and they'll kill you and eat you if they catch you. It's like a disease. It's like rabies, only faster, a lot faster. That's why you've got to come and get us out of here now, right now.

Freddy: But I don't care darling, because I love you, and you've got to let me eat your brains.