Sunday, October 30, 2011

Phil's Horror Watch, Day 27: Phil watches RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1986)-October 27, 2011

Here it is folks: Day 27 of my horror movie marathon! I took another trip back to the 80's (hey, there were a lot of great horror films from that era) and picked out another great zombie film that stayed to the conventions of the genre, while adding its own spin to the mix. So if you haven't seen RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD yet, you are missing out on a splatter zombie film classic!

Theatrical Movie Poster (1985)
The film's about two dim-witted medical supply warehouse employees Frank and Freddy (James Karen and Thom Mathews respectively) who accidentally release a deadly gas from a government drum into the air, which the vapors causes the dead in the nearby cemetery to rise up and feed on the brains of the living!

Also appearing in the film are Clu Gilager, Don Calfa, Beverly Randolf, and legendary 80's scream queens Linnea Quigley and Jewel Shepard. The film's soundtrack boasts some the best punk bands from that era, such as The Cramps, T.S.O.L., The Damned, 45 Grave and others.

The film was written and directed by Dan O'Bannon, who got his start when he and iconic director John Carpenter collaborated on his student film DARK STAR (which O'Brannon wrote and starred in). He then went on to write the screenplay for ALIEN (1979) and DEAD AND BURIED (1981). Originally O'Bannon was hired to write the script and horror director Tobe Hooper was set to direct the film. But when Hopper backed out of the project to make LIFEFORCE (which O'Bannon wrote as well) producers Tom Fox and John Russo offered O'Bannon the job as director. He accepted on the one condition that he could totally rewrite the film so that it differed from George Romero's zombie films. The film is more "splatstick" style morbid humor and eccentric dialogue. While the first half of the film is comedic, the second half is pure horror.

Another note worthy fact: Long before the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake and 28 DAYS LATER, the film boasts of having the image of FAST running zombies. Another one of O'Bannon's twists to the rewrite. The fast zombies were a total surprise to audiences who were use to the slow moving undead in Romero's films. Another fun aspect to the film is the combination of the old time actors (Karen, Gilager, and Calfa) blending perfectly with the young, inexperienced actors of the film. You have this great contrast of young and old in the film, which gives the film a great universal appeal.

Upon completion, the studio Orion Pictures deemed the film "unreleasable" and supposedly re-cut the film, then quietly released the film to theaters. However, audiences reacted positively to the film, and as a result, has become a huge cut classic. The film spawned four, count 'em, four sequels! But those films don't even come close to the original.

THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is a gory, scary, funny, and entertaining horror film that deserves to be part of everybody's film library. The film is the lasting legacy of Dan O'Bannon, who passed away from Crohn's Disease on December 17, 2009. So a big "Thank You" to Mr. O'Bannon for giving us this film to enjoy for the past twenty-six years!! You did good my friend!!

THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is currently available on both Blu-Ray and DVD. To purchase a copy, visit your local retailer, or visit the Amazon website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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