The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

DVD Cover (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
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Overall Rating 78%
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Ranked #1,786
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When a bumbling pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to re-animate as they go on a rampage seeking their favorite food: brains! --TMDb
Review by Chad
Added: October 20, 2007
Confession time: The Return of the Living Dead is my favorite movie of all time. "True" horror fans will almost certainly point to one of the classics as being their favorite: The Exorcist is a popular one, as is Psycho and the Romero series. Me? I love those movies as much as the next guy, but nothing ranks higher in my list of favorites than this one right here. This is not a casual statement, nor is it an opinion that changes on a weekly or monthly basis; I've been saying the same thing ever since the film made its debut on VHS and introduced me to the world of horror and zombie films. Yes, this was the very first horror movie that I can remember seeing, and from there, well... hey, did you know that I'm practically obsessed with horror films now?

The storyline for this one begins in a medical supply warehouse, where two of the workers - Frank (James Karen) and Freddy (Thom Mathews) - are discussing the weirdest things that they've ever seen come through there. This leads to a discussion about the barrels of 245 Trioxin that are sitting down in the basement, and... wait, 245 Trioxin? Well, you see, Frank explains to Freddy that the events in that popular zombie movie weren't entirely fiction, as although some of the events in there were fabricated for the film, the storyline was actually based in reality. The military covered up the whole thing, of course, but thanks to a typical army fuck-up, the chemicals got shipped to this warehouse instead of the government disposal plant where they should have gone. Freddy, thinking that Frank is pulling his leg, wants to go see these barrels, and to make a long story short, one of them ends up bursting open, filling the entire place with chemicals that will turn the dead into flesh-hungry zombies. Frank's boss Burt (Clu Gulager) then enters the picture, and he suggests that they burn all of the evidence in the crematorium at the neighboring mortuary, a place where his good friend Ernie (Don Calfa) works. Things get much, much worse when they follow through with this plan as the chemicals soon make their way into the nearby graveyard...

...a graveyard that just so happens to be the party-spot of the evening for a gang of punk rockers who are waiting for Freddy to finish up with his work. Included in this group is Freddy's girlfriend Tina (Beverly Randolph), Spider (Miguel A. Nez Jr.), Scuz (Brian Peck), Trash (Linnea Quigley), and of course, the leader of the gang in Suicide (Mark Venturini). When the words "more brains!" start coming out of the decayed throats of the walking dead, the two groups eventually come together in the mortuary and attempt to survive the zombie onslaught.

As mentioned, this is my favorite horror film of all time, so I may be just a little biased in this review; with that said, however, I'd like to point out that - in my humble opinion - there is not a single flaw to be found throughout the entire running time. The Return of the Living Dead does everything right, and the result is a film that I can (and have) watch over and over again without getting tired of it in the least.

For starters, let's take a look at the way that comedy and horror were blended together perfectly throughout the film. This movie is chock full of quotable lines that will stick with fans for years, but what separates this from most of the other horror comedies out there is the fact that it's "unintentionally" funny. By unintentionally, I don't mean that we find ourselves laughing at bad acting or horrible effects; no, the writers obviously wanted to draw laughs from the crowd, but the humor is extremely subtle in most of the scenes and leaves you wondering if it was even intended to be funny in the first place. This is by far one of the hardest styles of humor to successfully accomplish, but Dan O'Bannon nailed it.

Now, this is not to say that the film relies on comedy to keep the viewer interested - far from it. There's actually a genuine horror film wrapped up in these ninety minutes, and this aspect of the film works in every way possible. It's genuinely scary watching the situation build from "just another day in Kentucky" to "all hell has broken loose" over the course of a couple of hours, there's mountains of tension as we watch the characters go from one bad situation to an even worse one, and of course, there's the effects... my God, the effects. The zombies found here look downright beautiful, and I truly believe that there has yet to be another zombie movie made that has made their corpses look more repulsively excellent.

There's also that little matter of the actors and actresses who tell the story, and again, the film excels in that regard. Watching James Karen and Thom Mathews interact with one another in their boss / employee relationship was great, and just when you think that the chemistry couldn't be any better, Clu Gulager enters the picture and just turns things up a notch. Add in the punk rockers (all of whom added to the overall storyline in some way or another), and you've got yourself one hell of a movie.

Everything about this film is flawless: the storyline, the soundtrack, the acting, the gore, the zombie effects, the tension, the humor, everything. I won't say that it's the best horror film ever made, but for my money, it damned sure is the most entertaining. 10/10.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 10/21/2005, 08:24 PM
Really nothing bad to be said about a film this creative. A comedy. A horror. Call it a spoof, but it really delivers. Clu Gulagher is great in the leading role, and the make-up and zombies effects top notch. Kick ass zombie flick. 7/10.
Dametria #2: Dametria - added 04/24/2007, 11:50 AM
Pretty funny, Gets slow toward the end but start of with a bang...
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 09/20/2007, 04:12 AM
I forgot how funny Clu Gulager and James Karen were in this. They totally stole the show. I was amazed how after 90 minutes, it was still just as funny and fresh as the first 10. Definitely one of my favourite zombie movies, hands down. 9/10
grain of sand #4: grain of sand - added 10/31/2007, 07:15 AM
seeend moore paramedics
Shakes #5: Shakes - added 01/22/2009, 11:53 AM
Mmm...Yeah, Gulagar and Karen completely stole the show. I love this flick. I think I may actually just go watch it now...9/10
Nirrad #6: Nirrad - added 05/24/2009, 02:16 AM
Holy piss..... 9/10
Lucid Dreams #7: Lucid Dreams - added 05/24/2009, 02:22 AM
I'll piss all over you Darrin. This one was pretty cool.....I mean how many zombie movies have midgets in them. 8/10
Crispy #8: Crispy - added 01/06/2011, 12:39 AM
Words can not explain how much I loved this movie. Perfect.
Dollar Bill #9: Dollar Bill - added 02/06/2012, 09:43 AM
A masterpiece! Every time I pass a cemetery here in Louisville, Ky. I think of this movie. Unfortunately there is no Resurrection Cemetery here, haha! I know the story took place here, but was filmed in San Diego. They actually used real names of buried people from Louisville on the tombstones in the cemetery scene and also had a Civil War cannon from Louisville in this scene as well. They talk about it at this scene on the DVD I own when you watch it with the commentary on.. 10/10
Jack Desmond #10: Jack Desmond - added 06/26/2013, 04:09 PM
Totally agree with this review. The Exorcist to this day remains in my book the scariest and most well crafted horror film of all time, but I found Return of the Living Dead more out and out enjoyable. I still remember seeing this with a buddy at a drive-in (remember those?) when it first came out in 1984 and us laughing our asses off (the beer didn't hurt). Years later I bought this on DVD and had much the same reaction. Truly funny and tense and scary when it wanted to be. Plus sharp writing, great zombie creature designs (even better than Day of the Dead IMO) and bright performances across the board. 10/10.
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