Return of the Living Dead

At the time this article is published (October 2018), Zombies are probably the #1 mainstream monster in television and film. Every Halloween The Walking Dead comes back for a new season, Zombieland will air repeatedly on some random cable network, and there are massive zombie walks in many areas around the country. If you happened to be someone who truly cares about the survival of the zombie sub-genre, it is a pretty safe bet you have nothing to worry about for a while. There was a time though when a (good) zombie movie was a rare occurrence. When a zombie movie had a major release in the United States, it was a big deal for horror fans. One zombie movie in particular I want to share with you today is The Return of the Living Dead!

The Return of the Living Dead is NOT A SEQUEL. Many can assume just by the title alone that it must be a sequel to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but this movie stands on its own footing. It has a small reference to Night, but it only mentions it as something that likely happened in order to drive the plot of the movie forward. The reference could have been cut from the movie and nothing would have changed.

Getting all that out of the way, I can confidently tell you that this movie is a top tier zombie movie. It’s up there with Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Zombieland, Dead Alive, [REC], Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Planet Terror, Zombie, Train to Busan, and Dead Snow. Personally I think it has superiority over half of those movies listed. This movie has so much going on within the story, and yet it somehow balances it all beautifully.

Without giving away to much of the movie, it follows a punk kid named Freddy at his new job in a medical supply warehouse next to a cemetery, the setting even lacks subtlety. His boss Frank tries to impress him while also giving him a tour of the facility in order to help him familiarize it. Meanwhile all of Freddy’s punk friends are on their way so he can find them something to do. Frank and Freddy stumble upon a drum left behind by the Army Corp of Engineers, with a dead body and toxic gas in it. Guess what gets set free.

The rest of the movie gets ramped up in a typical 80’s fashion, with the timely music, lingo, and style. This is an 80’s movie that was actually released in the 80’s! One thing that has to be mentioned is how incredible the special effects are. Many of the zombie and human dismemberment/devouring scenes are A+ in visual quality, even though these zombies in particular only eat brains. That is all on a $4 Million Dollar budget, which was not a large sum at all in 1985.

Return of the Living Dead has no business being as great as it is. There is an abundance of smoking, swearing, violence, gore, and nudity, but the characters are so much fun to watch interact with each other. The actors all do their best with some performances being too good for the likes of a movie of this type. This film really shows how much effort can be put into a production even with limited resources and a ridiculous idea, and what came into fruition was Horror/Comedy Gold.

Return of the Living Dead is currently free on Amazon Prime Video and Vudu, and also available to rent on iTunes.

Connor Hesnan

Connor Hesnan