Monday, October 24, 2011
31 Days of Halloween - Day 24 - Movie 1
Today I revisited The Return of the Living Dead (1985) for the first time since I saw it during it's first release, when I saw it numerous times. An indirect sequel to Night of the Living Dead (1968) ROTLD postulates that the events in NOTLD were based on a true incident in which the bodies in the morgue of a VA hospital were reactivated by a military created chemical. The reanimated corpses were contained and went astray when being shipped to a military base winding up instead in the basement of a medical supply company warehouse. Here, one of the containers is accidentally breached releasing the chemical which finds its way into a nearby cemetery reanimating the dead buried there who rise up hungry for brains.
This movie is a dark comedy and a very funny one at that, particularly whenever James Karen is on screen. It also veered off in a way completely different from where George Romero was forging with the zombies from Night of the Living Dead in his own franchise of zombie films. Unlike Romero's slow, dim, shuffling, zombies, the walking corpses in ROTLD are smart, articulate, fast, and crafty. They can talk, problem solve, use tools, run, and strategize. This makes escape for the group of people trapped by them pretty much impossible. Even worse, also differing from Romero's zombies, these zombies don't expire if you shoot them in the head. Destroying their brain doesn't make any difference. You can chop them up into tiny pieces and each piece will keep moving. They can't be rekilled.
This is also the movie which launched the association that everyone now has with zombies having a particular appetite for brains. In fact, the zombies here couldn't care less about the rest of the body, just what's inside the skull.
There's much about this movie which dates it to the time it was made, but it lends it a novel feel. Director, Dan O'Bannon, does an admirable job hiding what were obviously the strict limitations of a severely limited budget, making up for it with a lot of energy and some strong performances and some really fun and creative set pieces.