Return of the Living Dead is a black humor/horror film released in 1985. It was modestly received at the box-office but it did manage to gain a cult following and spawn two sequels of much lesser quality (see Return of the Living Dead 3). General information can be gained from the IMDb, so I have will not repeat it here.

Return (as it will henceforth be called) was a unique film for several reasons. Firstly and most importantly it separated itself from George A. Romero's Dead Trilogy (Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead/Day of the Dead) completely. In Return's universe, Night was a fictionalized account of the true story, as told in the film. Return also set a precedent that is still felt in zombie cinema today: fast zombies (AKA: Return Zombies). Up until this time zombies had by and large followed the movement rules as provided by Romero's films. Everything from 28 Days Later to the remake of Dawn of the Dead owes their zombie attitude in some way to Return.

As a film Return is all over the map. It starts out as almost a parody of the slasher films of the era. However, about a half-hour into the film it takes a turn for the truly dark. The horror is wonderfully intermixed with various degrees of ever-darkening humor. I can't help but wonder if Sam Raimi used Return as an influence for Evil Dead 2. I am not aware of another horror film that not only had comedic elements, but used those elements successfully.

The casting was a wonderful mix of unknowns and..well..Clu Gulager. Gulager plays Bert to a tee; despite the growing insanity of the situation Bert always seems to rise to the challenge and take charge. James Karen also deserves special mention for his great performance as Frank, although his best scenes are of course when he was paired with Thom Mathews. Linnea Quigley, the goth Trash, has became a B-movie queen thanks largely to her performance in Return. Rounding out the cast are Jewel Shepard and Brian Peck; Shepard's scenes being very light but memorable... and Peck being the only actor to be in all three Return films.

The script is hectic but steady, the direction is a big departure from horror films of the early to mid 1980s (the opening credits and the Trioxin rain scenes especially stand out), and I will go on record to say that in my opinion... Return has quite possibly the best ending of any horror film I've ever seen. While it might not be as much of a classic as Night of the Living Dead, Return certainly should be watched by anyone who has an interest in the zombie film genre and how it has evolved into its current state. Return of the Living Dead is out on DVD where fine zombie movies are sold.

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