Return Of The Living Dead - 1985

It sounds like a pointless clash (snicker snicker) to mix punks with zombies but it actually all works out in Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 cult classic, “Return Of The Living Dead”. Freddy (Thom Mathews) begins a new job at ‘Uneeda Medical Supplies’. He and his trainer, Frank (James Karen in a classic performance) decide to fiddle with a corpse-stuffed drum that’s the supposed aftermath of the experiment that inspired the film “Night Of The Living Dead" (hows that for metahumor, Scream) that’s been accidentally left in the basement by the military. Toxic gas leaks out, poisoning the two and rising into the air, causing a nasty storm.

Nearby, Freddy’s punk friends: his girlfriend Tina, Casey, Suicide, Spider, Chuck, Scuz  and a very naked Linnea Quigley, nearly stealing the whole film as Trash, are all doing what kids do..getting drunk in the graveyard and stripping on top of tombs. But now, the mystery gas has caused a near-acid rain storm that drenches the graves and causes the dead to rise. Meanwhile, Freddy and Frank are literally dying from inhaling the gas in the nearby mortuary while their boss, Burt, and his friend, mortician Ernie, try to figure out how to dispose of some other experiments brought to life by the gas leak.

Of course, mayhem ensues with pickaxes in heads, suicide by immolation  in a cremation oven, an undead midget, blood,brains,breasts,puke and a particularly gooey and frightening zombie by the name of ‘Tar Man’…and that’s not even all of it.

Return Of The Living Dead" is written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (who wrote "Alien”) and based on a book by the co-screenwriter of “Night Of The Living Dead”, John Russo. It has spawned four, count them, four sequels of which only one is worth watching..”Return Of The Living Dead pt.2" (also starring James Karen and Thom Mathews but also with a pre "Twin Peaks" Dana Ashbrook). The film has some great ‘splatstick’ with amazing performances and FX design. The soundtrack is a treat, itself, with songs by SSQ (featuring Stacey Q), T.S.O.L., The Damned, 45 Grave and The Cramps.

Return Of The Living Dead" is the first zombie horror/comedy to really shine and was a big hit at sleepovers across America (at least a few I went to). Also, for those of you who are fans of the ‘fast zombies’, this is their debut film.

In a time where zombie films are as contrived and forgettable as Amanda Bynes’ tweets, it’s nice to go back and revisit the time when the ‘zombie film’ wasn’t cliched to death yet. The blu-ray release is especially worth picking up since it also has some really nice featurettes.

I still watch it frequently and laugh at nearly ever line Trash delivers.

Oh, Linnea Quigley, how I love you.

-JBK

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