horror/comedy

Shaun vs. Return of the Living Dead (1985)

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Directed by Dan O’Bannon

Starring Clu Gulager, Thom Mathews, James Karen and Don Calfa

A couple of idiots unleash a horde of the undead when they accidentally break open a canister that leaks a gas that brings dead back to life.  A group of punks partying in the nearby graveyard are going to have their party crashed

DO YOU WANNA PARTAY?  IT’S PARTY TIME!

Review

While working in the newbie (Mathews) at a medical supply warehouse, Frank (Karen) shares a story about a canister in the basement.  According to him, the events from the movie “Night of the Living Dead” were real and that canister had something to do with what happened.  Eager to show it off, they both head down and accidentally damage the container and it releases a strange vapour. 

They call their boss, Burt (Gulager) to help out after one of the cadavers they have stored wants to be let out of the cold room.  Deciding to want to get rid of the body, they bring it to the nearby morgue after eventually convincing the owner (Calfa) that it would be best to burn it up.  After it gets burned up though, the vapour gets mixed up in the sky as a storm passes and it rains down on the nearby graveyard where a group of hysterically over the top 80’s punks are partying.  As dead bodies start to rise, the living get picked off as they try to escape the ever expanding group of zombies.

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Here’s a group of people you’ve never seen together before.

I rather liked how the movie treats NOTLD with a “what if it was real?” scenario.  While it might sound like it’s riding the coat tails of the classic film but it differentiates itself more than enough to be it’s own movie and while the original was quite serious, ROTLD has a bit of fun with the subject matter.  You might laugh at what people called “fashion” thirty years ago, but the movie provides some good humour aside from that as well.  It’s rare for a horror movie to be funny as well, but ROTLD finds the right balance more often than not.

The effects are still pretty good three decades after the fact.  The puppetry effects are obvious but this isn’t Walking Dead, they didn’t have CGI back then.  They still look pretty cool and the zombie make up is appropriately grotesque up close.  What may be a departure for a zombie flick, especially back then, was the fact that these ones can run and even talk.  One of the feature zombies, Tar Man, is one of the best parts of the movie, just a shame he’s barely in it.

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Brrrraaaiiins!

The cast clearly had a good time making the movie.  Even if some of them are hilariously bad looking punks, I think it just adds a bit more humour to see some such a group consisting of trashy looking teens with preppy looking ones.  They really don’t mix too well, especially partying in the cemetery, but zombie fodder is zombie fodder. 

Despite being partially a comedy, Return of the Living Dead is one of the better zombie flicks I’ve ever enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. It’s practically a yearly tradition for me to watch this movie.  Maybe I’m a little biased towards it, but I do think most zombie fans would enjoy this.  Give it a shot if you’ve somehow missed it before.

TL;DR

Story: 8 – Nice blend of gore and humour, you’ll enjoy this 90-minute zombie party.

Blood: 7 – Lots of walking corpses biting people’s heads to get at their gooey brains.

Nudity: 7 – Scream queen Linnea Quigley shows off what’s kept her in the business for many years, dancing around a graveyard completely naked.

Overall: 8 – A classic zombie flick that any zombie fan should have already seen by now.

Trivia

-The morgue owner, Ernie, was intended to be portrayed as an escaped Nazi in hiding.  Certain clues are dropped in the film such as his gun being a Walther P38, a picture of Eva Braun posted on his wall and listening to German marching music.

-Some zombie extras were paid more to eat real calf brains.  They didn’t do it until after the director ate some himself.

-Tobe Hooper, director of such classic films as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, was slated to direct the film in 3D but he dropped out before production began.

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