Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Every horrorhound's favorite month is upon us, and to celebrate, I'll be dishing out a personal pick from the genre for every day in October. Some will be obvious and rather unoriginal (sorry that I like movies other people like), while some will be a little more oddball and off-the-wall. Some may even challenge your idea of what constitutes a "horror" movie. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the month with some good movies, even if they aren't ones I recommend!

Today's Pick: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

As I've mentioned quite a few times during the 31 Days of Drew, the 1980's were a golden era of splatstick horror gems. But, if there was one horror movie that captured that aesthetic, tone and energy perfectly, there's no question it would be The Return of the Living Dead. Filled with great effects, a new take on zombies and one of the bleakest but funniest endings ever, this could very well be the high watermark of the entire decade.

This film posits that the original Night of the Living Dead was based on an actual incident and that the bodies from that event are being held in the basement of a medical supply warehouse. Well, it turns out that two bumbling employees end up releasing the deadly gas inside one of the canisters holding the zombie corpses, and bring some of the cadavers in the warehouse back to life. After discovering that the "destroy the brain" rule doesn't work, they enlist the help of the local crematorium owner so they can burn the remains. But, that just causes the smoke from the zombie ashes to turn into rain that falls on the nearby graveyard and brings all those corpses back to life! And of course, there's a group of punk kids throwing a party in the graveyard that night. Spoiler alert: they don't have a good time.

There's so much to love about The Return of the Living Dead that it's hard to say where to start singing its praises. Do I go with the biting satire of the script, or the script's ingenious idea to make the zombies virtually indestructable? How about this being the film that introduced the idea of zombies specifically wanting to eat brains? That's certainly landmark material. What about the truly fantastic effects work, especially on the Tar-Man, who might just be one of the best zombie characters ever realized on screen? And that's not just due to the suit, but the actor inside who gives the Tar-Man such a signature body language that makes him immediately indelible.

What about all the great comedic acting? The performers in this never wink at the camera, but they completely understand the sardonic nature of the script and play things at exactly the right level of earnestness and cheese. Or how about the absolutely bonkers ending, which happens to be both bleakly depressing and uproariously funny at the same time? And those who appreciate the female form in all its glory, do yourself a favor and see this movie just for Linnea Quigley's salacious dance scene.

I could go on and on about my love for this film, but I don't want to tell you too much if you haven't already seen it. If you have, there's no better excuse than Halloween to pop it in and remind yourself of an era full of punk music and practical effects. This is one for the record books.

Tomorrow gives us one of the best films to ever postulate what life is like when your a ghost. Hint: I swear it's not Ghost Dad.

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1 comment:

  1. Great to see some love for ROTLD! My friends and I watched it just about every day during the summer of 86. Ahh, glorious VHS. And it still ties as one of my top four zombie movies of all time (Original Night, Return, Dawn remake and Shaun). I featured Return and its place in larger zombie lore on my radio show a couple of years ago: Do you want to party? It's party time!