The Return of the Living Dead (1985) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

SPOILERS:  (not that the plot really matters)

Don't be fooled too much by the title.


Linnea Quigley is stark naked through most of the first 45 minutes of the movie, except for leg warmers.
It isn't really a sequel to George Romero's famous Night of the Living Dead, but more of a spoof of it, and an homage to it. In fact, it was released in competition with Romero's own official sequel. Most people have called it a horror/comedy, but I think gross-out/comedy is more accurate. There isn't really that much horror. Although the resurrection of the dead may put some scares into kids under 12, it basically plays out for gross laughs if you are an adult. Before Cemetery Man (1994) and Shaun of the Dead (2004) came along, this was widely considered to be the funniest zombie movie.

It features exceptionally gruesome brain-eatin' zombies in various states of dismemberment and decomposition, twisted logic, outrageous dialogue, trash talk, intentionally corny acting, a hard-drivin' rock score, dumb 80's punk fashions, movie in-jokes, and a great-lookin' woman who stays stark naked for more than thirty minutes.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Theatrical trailer(s)

  • Commentary from Director/Writer Dan O'Bannon and Production Designer William Stout

  • "Designing the Dead" Featurette

  • Conceptual Art by William Stout

  • TV Spots

  • Widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85

It ends when the U.S. Army destroys the zombie threat in the usual measured, rational fashion which defines their movie behavior - by dropping a nuclear bomb on Louisville, Kentucky. If that isn't silly enough for you, it turns out that the fallout from that bomb will probably spread the zombism, not end it, so the movie ends with the traditional "the end????".

Although the movie is a cult favorite, it has been all but unavailable for years, so fans should be delighted by the beautiful transfer on the DVD. According to the comments at IMDb, there was never a widescreen version of this film. There is now. I guess they created this one especially for the DVD by hard matting the full frame, then digitizing the result without the matting into an anamorphic print. But that's just a guess. However the hell they did it, it looks great 


The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is not really a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, although it makes no bones about using that film for inspiration. Further, it is more a comedy than horror. A young man is working his first night in a medical warehouse that sells cadavers, skeletons, etc. His girlfriend and their circle of friends are waiting at the cemetery across the street for him to get off work. The man training him asks if he has seen "Night of the Living Dead", then explains that it was a true story, and that the Army accidentally shipped the zombies to their warehouse. He takes him to the basement, and they accidentally release one. The gas overcomes them, and when they wake up, they are feeling terrible, but are even more concerned that the cadaver in the freezer is alive and trying to break out. They call the warehouse owner, admitting what happened, and together, they all try to kill the zombie. These are not ordinary movie zombies. First, they are not slow moving. Second, they eat live brains. Third, destroying their brains, or burning them doesn't slow them down in the slightest.

After cutting their zombie into pieces, and having each piece still alive, they decide to cremate it at the mortuary across the street. The smoke from the cremation mixes with raindrops, reanimating all of the corpses in the cemetery where the teenagers are killing time.

By now, the two warehouse employees are really feeling sick, with headaches, muscle aches, and chills, so they call in paramedics. The paramedics find no pulse, no blood pressure, and body temperature the same as room temperature, and the mortician correctly diagnoses the headaches and muscle pain as rigor mortis. The two don't take this news well.

The question then becomes how to either defeat the zombies, or escape them, but fast, intelligent and indestructible zombies are a formidable opponent.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, 3.5/5

The People Vote ...

  • A modest winner at the box office. Made for $4 million, it grossed $12 million theatrically.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "This film is a C+. I suppose there's no such thing as a great film that happens to be about about zombies, but there is such a thing as a great zombie film, in the sense of 'top-drawer entertainment for those who are favorably predisposed to enjoy zombie films.' On that particular beach, this movie was the Big Kahuna of the 80s." Tuna says: "The special effects range from good to excellent, the graphic design is very good, and the acting is not at all bad. With appeal both as horror and comedy, the proper score is C+."

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