Halloween Scene: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

I’ve seen Return of the Living Dead before. It was back in my early horror-watching days. Back then, I didn’t realize there was an actual connection between this film in Night Of The Living Dead (the original script was written by NOTLD co-creator John Russo who split with Romero at some point and created this alternate franchise) aside from the fact that this movie claims that that movie was created as a cover-up for an actual zombie infestation. I also didn’t really get that it’s supposed to be a more comedic take on the zombie genre. It seems so obvious looking back now at the over-the-top performances and the crazy punk characters in the flick, but when you’re renting anything you can get your hands on, these things don’t seem too out there. In fact, the aspect of the movie that stuck with me the most from the first viewing wasn’t the tarman or the half corpse talking to the people or even Linnea Quigley running around naked, but the futility of the whole thing.

See, in this movie, the main characters discover a zombie in a barrel that’s still alive. He gets out and they chop him up into pieces. Then they take him over to the creamatorium where they think they’ll easily dispose of the body and be done with it. But he burns up, goes up into the clouds and then comes down as rain, infecting the entire grave yard. That essentially means that the zombies can not be stopped. You can stuff them in containers and hope they don’t get out, but that’s just a stop gap. Maybe you could round them all up and shoot them into the sun, but then you might get space zombies and no one wants that. That sense of “you’re not going to win” really stuck with me. It’s kind of like if Freddy is after you. You might survive one movie, but he’ll get you. You know why? Because he’s freaking boogie man and you’re just a dumb kid trying to figure out what the hell is going on around you!

This time around, though, I was able to enjoy the comedic aspects of the movie more, but that doesn’t take anything away from the special effects which are still pretty damn good. Tarman looks great and gross and the torso zombie on the table is still creepy. I love this collective of weird 80s punks and wonder if anyone ever really dressed like that AND hung out with people who dressed so differently (I love that the leader says something like “I’m trying to make a statement!”). Overall it’s a good mix of fun and frightening that I dug.

I know that I’ve seen ROTLD 3, but not sure if I’ve seen 2 and definitely haven’t seen anything after that. 2’s on Netflix Instant so I’ll probably give that a look soon and then I’ll move on to the weird S&M fest that is ROTLD 3 at some point after I get through the War of the Worlds discs I hope come this week.

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