Thursday 26 June 2008

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

In 1985 Dan O'Bannon, who wrote a number of pioneering science fiction films in the seventies, including Dark Star and Alien, shook up the horror world with The Return of the Living Dead. He didn't just write this one though, he directed it too, and it's a riot. It's horrific, it's gory, it's sexy and it's hilarious: precisely what the horror genre needed in 1985. It also brought us Linnea Quigley dancing naked on a tomb, and every film ought to have that.

We open at the Uneeda Medical Supply in Louisville, KY, where new employee Freddy is introduced by his new boss to a bunch of canisters mistakenly delivered to them fourteen years earlier instead of some army base. They contain corpses infected with some sort of bizarre chemicals that apparently were the true inspiration for Night of the Living Dead. Naturally they break a canister and the chemicals escape and reanimate everything in sight, from cadavers to butterflies pinned onto a wall and even half dogs set for delivery to veterinary schools.

Next door at the highly appropriately named Resurrection Cemetery, Freddy's weirdo buddies are partying while waiting for him to finish work, and soon end up part of the action as the chemicals get released into the graveyard. Freddy's girlfriend Tina is the normal one of the bunch, which is pretty obvious given that that the others are named things like Spider, Scuz and Suicide. Linnea Quigley is named Trash and she gets horny and naked thinking about anything associated with death.

The overacting here is stunning, aided by some awesome dialogue that can only inspire stunning overacting. However that's entirely the point. This is no serious horror film, it's a riotous comedy and all that stunning overacting just turns this into even more of a cult classic. There are three types of cult classics out there: seriously awesome movies, films so bad that they become guilty pleasures and innovative movies that become so much fun that you can't help loving them. This one falls into that third category. After all how can you not love a film that has a midget zombie in it?

The Return of the Living Dead brings in plenty of awesome touches. We watch the two dumbass medical supply workers gradually die and go through rigor mortis, while bitching how cold it is. There's a half zombie woman who tells us about how eating brains relieves the pain of rotting. One zombie commits suicide by climbing into a crematorium. How often do you see that in a movie? We watch zombies run, gang up and set traps to acquire food, including effectively ordering it over an ambulance intercom. 'Send more paramedics!' Add the midget zombie, headless zombies, a naked Linnea Quigley zombie. Awesome stuff. Let's watch it again!

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