In 1968, George Romero and John Russo wrote a zombie film that would reinvent the Horror genre and fear itself. Nearly twenty years later, Russo would team up with Sci-Fi guru Dan O'Bannon, writer of the seminal ALIEN, to create RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, the first major zombie breakthrough in America outside of Romero's original trilogy, and still one of the most successful and hilarious Horror Comedies of all time.
The film proposes that the events in the DEAD films were real, and that the bodies of the undead corpses were shipped around the country in containers sealed by the government. When a group of punks unwittingly breach the seals on one of these containers, a horde of fiendish ghouls are unleashed in a nearby cemetery as the group struggles to survive! RETURN's exaggerated comic book characters are living embodiments of 80s pop culture, and each are written with a biting cynicism and sharp wit. 80s genre favorites Miguel Nunez, Linnea Quigley, and Thom Mathews line the cast, and are joined by Golden Age actors Clu Gulager, James Karen, and Don Calfa. Cannibalistic ghouls had been clamoring for fresh meat since the late 60s, but it wasn't until 1985 that their tastes turned to a more delectable delicacy: "Braaaaains.." As the re-animated corpses would tell you themselves, brains became the only cure for the pains of death, resulting in a series of brutal attacks and head-munching. By this time, Tom Savini had become synonymous with gore and zombie make-up FX, but here, Allan Apone brings O'Bannon's original conceptions to life with equally (if not more) memorable creations, the most impressive of which being the skeletal Tar Man. The film's down-trodden ending is as much a comment on the expendability of 80s youth as it is a satirical look at Reagan-era politics, where nuclear holocaust was just a button away.
Where Romero's DEAD series adapted the true life horrors of racial discrimination and consumerism into a frightening NIGHT, DAWN, and DAY of terror, O'Bannon's tongue-in-cheek approach is just as valid and as smart as its obvious influences. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD will remain one of the all-time genre classics, and a staple in 80s Horror viewing!
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