Archive for December 20th, 2009

The Return of the Living Dead

by on Dec.20, 2009, under Daily Review

I’ve not seen this film for many years, but have always had extremely fond memories. With the untimely passing of Director, Dan O’Bannon, I’ve rewatched especially as a homage. I was a bit worried really, as usually, revisiting a film after many years could go either way.  Rose tinted glasses. On this occasion I needn’t have worried. It’s still as clever, enigmatic and colourful as I remembered it.

Set some time after Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Dan drops a bunch of teen rebel punks into a graveyard awaiting a friend whose just got his first job at the local medical supply store which, unknown to them is the military holding point zombie01for the contained living dead, stored in chemical tanks, lost and almost forgotten about. During his first days training, Freddy (Thorn Mathews) gets a look at these units as his bumbling boss Frank (James Karen) unfortunately gives one a crack, releasing a chemical and starting the whole undead process off again.

The film wins on so many levels. It looks great with crisp clean colours which reflect in the characterisation and contrast between the older and younger characters perfectly with a fast witty realistic script. It’s this interaction between the young and old which is so enjoyable and engrossing to watch. Another interesting point is the zombies themselves are fast and vicious and speak. Well, mainly shouting ‘Brains’, but some great lines also, ‘bring more cops’, and ‘bring more paramedics’. They don’t die either with many attempts to hit the brain, remove the head and eventually cut them up into small parts leaving them jiggling about. Superb.  The running also, is highly inventive and adds a real edge to the situation. I don’t think it was the first film to have running Zombies, but it defiantly uses it better than Nightmare City, which has them using machine guns and flying a plane. The Zombie from the chemical tank has got to be my favorite from any film, so wet, black and slippery with great movement.

Ernie (Don Calfa) steals the show as the local mortician and friend of Frank. The scene in which Frank is convincing Ernie to burn a bag of rabid weasels is pure cinematic class with stunning dialogue. Linnea Quigley is also sensational and captivates the audience with screen presence. But it’s credit to Dan O’Bannon who masterminds this whole scenario, encouraging great acting, perfect clever script and beautiful ‘All American’ looking cinematography. It’s an outrage that he only directed two movies. (The other being the impressive adaptation of Lovecraft’s ‘Charles Dexter Ward’ – the Resurrected’. His scripting skills are exceptional with credits on Dark Star, Total Recall, Lifeforce and the Alien franchise to name a few. A great loss to the industry, but The Return of the Living Dead should be recognised as his legacy.

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