One look at the poster of The Return of the Living Dead and it’s clear this movie is going to be a horror comedy. What else would one expect from a movie with the slogan “They’re back from the grave and ready to party”? It’s only enhanced by the fact that a movie about corpses coming to life is preceded by a statement that all events shown on screen are depicted the way they truly happened and that all characters are based upon real people. I surely hope not because if that was the case humanity is lost…
The Return of the Living Dead acknowledges the existence of the Romero zombie universe. According to the characters in this movie the events portrayed in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead are a version of something that really happened but was covered up by the U.S. army. A couple of remaining zombies from that outbreak have been contained in closed off drums and are currently locked in a basement of a medical supply warehouse unbeknown to the U.S. Army which even has one man assigned to the task of being available at all time were they to be found. Well if something did not went wrong you wouldn’t have much of a movie so two employees of the warehouse, Freddy and Frank, happen to break a drum and release a strange gas which resurrects a corpse they have in the refrigerator. They call in their boss, who thinks the best way to deal with it is to chop it into pieces and throw it in the furnace of the next door crematorium and cemetery. Sadly the smoke of the burning corpse resurrects the entire cemetery which just so happens to contain a group of young people who were waiting for their friend Freddy to finish his shift.
The Return of the Living Dead is a fun zombie movie that upholds some rules while inventing new ones along the way. The zombies in this movie are actually quite chatty and not only scream “brains” every time they are on screen but in one scene a captured zombie actually explains why they’re after human brains. Unlike Romero’s movies and a TV Show like the Walking Dead the zombies aren’t designed to look really gory, instead they in some cases look like giant cartoon characters. They also have the ability to run and display intelligence when one of the undead calls in for more paramedics on the scene after just having eaten two. Also the zombie virus doesn’t seem to procreate by bites and scratches, but rather by a gas transported in smoke and rain.
A peculiar choice is the character of Trash, one of the female members of Freddy’s group, who at one point gives a striptease on top of a grave. Wearing nothing but a pair of leg warmers when the shit hits the fan thus having her the rest of the movie walk around completely nude… and she’s in it basically the whole running time! The only other movie I can remember, other than porn, that featured extensive long term gratuitous nudity was The Whole Nine Yards which had Amanda Peet walk around topless for what seemed forever.
Not that I’m complaining though!
This movie has a completely unique vibe which is hardly found most other zombie movies. It has a high pace, some original elements and like Gremlins has the zombies be funny on occasion rather than the slow strolling flesh eaters they are mostly portrayed as. There isn’t a lot of character development going on here and Freddy’s group mostly functions as food for zombies but still it is a nice take on the original “Night of the Living Dead” movie where people have been locked up in a building surrounded by zombies.