Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Directed by Dan O\'Bannon

Starring Beverly Randolph Clu Gulager Don Calfa James Karen Thom Mathews

Excellent semi-sequel to "Night of the Living Dead," with a punk rock score and plenty of comedy.

There are also some truly horrific scenes in this movie, which was directed by O'Bannon, one of the writers of "Alien." The film opens with two warehouse workers talking about a strange cargo of corpses that was accidentally shipped there by the U.S. government years ago. After going downstairs to the basement to check it out, the two men unleash a chemical plague on their town that brings the dead back to life. Unlike the Romero series, the zombies in this film can't be killed, even if they're shot in the head. They can also talk and are only interested in eating human brains.

A group of punk rockers partying in the local cemetery hold up in a building when the dead start rising out of their tombs. Linnea Quigley is great as an oversexed punk named Trash who does a striptease in the graveyard.

Funny, scary, shocking, gory and well-directed, "Return" is a brilliant 1980s horror movie, even better than "Re-Animator" and even (I think) better than "Dawn of the Dead," although it certainly owes its very existence to that movie. Coming out the same year as "Re-Animator," it certainly shares much of that film's comedic spirit. But it's actually scarier than that movie, while still managing to be remarkably funny. It definitely captures the spirit of "Night of the Living Dead" in a way that hasn't been captured by any other zombie film. It also puts the characters in even greater peril, since they can't just shoot the zombies in the head or, it turns out, trust their own government to take care of the problem.

Surprisingly political and even inspired somwhat by "Repo Man," "Return of the Living Dead" is truly one of the last great cult movies. Director O'Bannon was certainly in "the zone" when he made this, demonstrating a genius that never came through again. His next film, "The Resurrected," was a turkey and would be the last film he would ever direct.

It's a must-see that unfortunately was out-of-print on video for years, apparently due to licensing problems with the film's soundtrack. "ROTLD" boasts a kick-ass punk and indie-rock soundtrack from the era. It's actually become quite a collector's item. References to this film still reverberate throughout our culture today. "South Park" spoofed this movie in their funny Halloween "Pink Eye" episode.

Once an impossible-to-find rarity that would sell for $60 or more on EBay, it finally went back into print as a discount DVD in 2002.

A slew of inferior sequels resulted

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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