Return of the Living of the Dead
I don’t remember the first time I saw Night of the Living Dead. It’s one of those movies that has always been a part of my life. I do though, very clearly remember the first time I saw Return of the Living Dead. My sister was having a couple of friends over and they had rented a couple of movies, and Return had just found its way to the new release shelf. She was about five years older and my mother was watching with us. I was probably ten or eleven at the time. When Trash took off all her clothes my mom made me cover my eyes. I was so mad that didn’t let me see for what seemed like forever. It wasn’t until I watched it by myself years later did I realize, oh yeah, Trash really was naked that whole time, they weren’t being jerks and forgetting about me after all!
Night of the Living Dead is an anomaly. Night is a classic, a staple of the horror genre that has a weird and twisted line of sequels branching off of it. We have the Night, Dawn, Day thread, but we also have the Return of the living Dead thread. What makes Night so unique, is that both threads, in their own way, are just as unique and iconic as the original. Night, Dawn and Day are classics, but even though it’s a completely different tone look and feel, Return is just as iconic.
For me, Return of the Living Dead was a revelation. It was a different type of horror movie, or any type of movie for that matter. It’s does so much that it is almost a perfect movie. It was so fresh and so funny and every scene gave you something to look at.
The Cast is amazing.
The chemistry between our four core actors is amazing. Clu Gulager is always great and Don Calfa plays off of him so well. You almost don’t care about the plot, it would be worth it to watch an hour and a half of the two of them bantering back and forth. Thom Matthews and James Karen also play off each other so well, they really sell their character’s plight and bring some genuine emotion into it. The bits with the four of them together almost play off as an Abbott and Costello sketch it’s all so well written.
The Punks are well casted as well. I’ve already brought up Linnea Quigley’s puberty inducing turn as Trash, but her Counterpart Suicide is done so well by Mark Venturini. They were a perfect parody on the punk youth culture. I’m pretty sure I knew both of them in high school, the overly self-absorbed bad guy, and the drunk girl who got naked way to quick. Jewel Sheppard, John Philbin, Miguel A Nunez Jr, they were all given there little moments so that they stood out. Incredible use of the cast.
Speaking of Punks, I’d be remiss to talk about Return of the Living Dead without talking about its amazing soundtrack. If you only know the line “Do You Wanna Party?” from the epic 45 Grave song, I recommend listening to the entire song. It’s a fantastically dark punk rock epic. Between 45 Grave, The Cramps, and the Damned, Return of the Living Dead helped me fell in love with Punk. I learned just as much about music as I did about film from this movie.
Return of the Living Dead was the first movie that I remembered hiding so many hidden jokes in plain sight. Up until then, I really didn’t know you could do that. My ten year old mind was blown and I started looking at every movie so differently. It never occurred to me that so many people out there could have my sense of humor and get a kick out of such stupid stuff. I remember laughing so hard as a kid at Uneeda Medical Supplies and the eye chart that calls Burt a Cheap Ass. It wasn’t until I watched it in my teens did I realize that Don Calfa was obviously a full blown Nazi. Every set piece is covered in hidden jokes. It’s amazing.
Not that this is “Comedy”, but this was the movie that taught me that you could be funny and scary at the same time. That you could go all out with some of the scariest zombies ever made and still make me laugh at a velvet painting with big eyes on the wall in the morgue. Dan O’Bannon did an amazing job of balancing that horror and comedy and influenced so much that came after it. Shaun of the Dead owes more to Return than it does to any other Zombie movie.
I’ve always said that a Zombie apocalypse really wouldn’t be as bad as you think. Or at least, a classic Romero Zombie Apocalypse. In Night, Dawn and Day, the recently deceased are coming back to life and killing people. Now really, Right now, in a ten mile radius how many recently deceased people are close enough to you to kill you? Probably not many, probably none. If the dead started standing up, I think we’d be able to contain it pretty easily.
NOW, if they are Return of the Living Dead Zombies? The cemeteries the world over empting? Arms moving on their own?
WE ARE FUCKED!