The Return of the Living Dead (1985) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

When a mysterious military chemical gets into the atmosphere it ends up soaking into a cemetery down in bayou land and the bodies are brought to life. It seems that after their healthy snoozes, these creeps have developed quite an appetite, but not for just any old food. These hungry zombies want human brains!more
Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Dan O'Bannon
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 27, 2002
HBO Video


Don Calfa
as Ernie
Jonathan Terry
as Col. Glover
Drew Deighan
as Paramedic
John Durbin
as Radio Corpse
David Bond
as Radio Corpse
Bob Libman
as Tac Squad Captain
Ed Krieger
as Riot Cop
Leigh Drake
as Dispatcher
Derrick Brice
as Gunnery Sergeant
Terrence M. Houlihan
as Yellow Cadaver
Robert Bennett
as Headless Tarman
Robert J. Bennett
as Headless Tarman
Cherry Davis
as 1/2 Lady Corpse
Cherry Davis
as 1/2 Lady Corpse
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Return of the Living Dead

Critic Reviews for The Return of the Living Dead

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (4)

an icon of the 80s

Full Review… | January 18, 2014
7M Pictures

For pure eighties, punk rock, walking dead, brain eating mayhem, this is the film to watch.

Full Review… | October 14, 2012
Cinema Crazed

this overnight zombie apocalypse is a tongue-in-cheek brainload of hard-rocking fun.

Full Review… | June 8, 2012
Little White Lies

Bastard Son of a Prodigal Son: Interview on The Complete History of The Return of the Living Dead

Full Review… | March 30, 2011
Film Threat

Ed O'Bannon and John Russo may have intended The Return of the Living Dead as a comedy, but it's just too damn gory, too scary and too good to be dismissed as a zom com.

Full Review… | September 19, 2010
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

An amusing, punk variation on the familiar zombie theme.

Full Review… | July 12, 2008

Audience Reviews for The Return of the Living Dead


The first and probably the best of the 'Return' horror comedies depending on your opinion of course (although the second is pretty good). I think most would agree the special effects and makeup do look the best and the most stickiest in this first one. Plenty of murky atmosphere with misty dank graveyards, being trapped in a single building, the small town being slowly overrun and taken over plus a great twist ending with no survivors which is quite unique.

This film unleashes the now classic notion of toxic gas or waste kick starting a zombie outbreak. The all too cheesy notion of some dumb punks messing with some dangerous looking canisters/drums that leak a weird gas/ooze that somehow awakens/reanimates the dead. This is also the film that gave birth to the classic notion of zombies lurching around hankering for brains to munch on, maybe even letting out the odd 'brains!' line. So yes this film is the original hokey zombie popcorn flick that inspired an entire modern pop culture.

The main course of this silly film is the terrific makeup and puppetry on display throughout the film. The zombies are on top form as they stagger around with limbs and faces flopping off left right and centre. All are really played well by a large cast of extras who really put a lot of effect into their performances.

If you think of 'Thriller' (1983) then you have a good sense of this film basically. Its an extended adult version of 'Thriller' but not quite as good in the makeup and effects department believe it or not. But its clear where the idea came from as a lot of the undead awakening sequences and overall visuals look very similar, a bit of a rip off really.

Still this has some great chuckle moments mainly from Karen and Mathews with their little double acts, whilst Calfa actually brings a sense of realism and believable acting to the fold with his performance. His final scene at the very end is actually quite poignant. Definitely one of the best horror comedies of the 80's with a surprising bonus of good acting to boot.

Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

I'm still waiting for a zombie film where bathsalts are the cause for the living dead, but I guess we'll have to make due with what we have right now. Return of the Living Dead is a 1985 horror comedy about zombies. Contrary to popular belief, this isn't a sequel to Night of the Lving Dead, though it does pay homage to it in some scenes. The zombies are brought to life after two dumbasses working in a medical warehouse let loose a weird chemical into the air. Now the zombies have risen and it makes for one hell of a fight. The zombies in this film are different from the George Romero zombies in certain aspects. To start, the zombies in this ones crave brains rather than just human flesh. Their appearance is also different, but the special effects and makeup make them look fantastic. Some of the zombies in this one are completely mutilated and look disgusting. It really helps make for some really funny moments in the film. It's something of a comedy as well. A lot of the characters are really funny and memorable and it's partly due to the acting. Every actor in this movie is really good and a solid cast isn't something you come by too often in horror films. I was also surprised at how well written some of the dialogue was. Most horror films usually have average dialogue that isn't really interesting, but this movie doesn't really have its moments where I was bored. There's no contrived build up or forced characters, the movie just feels right. I don't really know how else to put it. This is the type of horror film that can please most anyone. If you like horror comedies, gore, naked chicks, and zombies, this movie will not disappoint you. It's my personal favorite zombie film ever made and I know that there are plenty of other zombie films to be made, but I doubt if they have the charm that this one has. I'd like to make this review longer, but it's one of those films where you just have to see for yourself instead of looking at reviews online.

Tyler Robertson
Tyler Robertson

Super Reviewer


A pair of medical supply warehouse workers accidentally release an experimental toxin which causes the dead to rise from the grave and feast on the brains of the living. Written and directed by the script writer of Alien, Return Of The Living Dead was (like Evil Dead 2) unfairly vilified as a "video nasty" in the 1980s because of its gory subject matter but the fact is that this film is so damn silly its nearly impossible to be considered as "horrific". In fact it all seems rather tame in the these days where torture porn has become commonplace and there are laughs aplenty as The Breakfast Club dodge flesh eating zombies to a suitably cheesy 80s soundtrack. Rather than being a spoof or outright parody, O'Bannon just took the idea behind Night Of The Living Dead and ran with it to outrageous effect; in fact, apart from the classic Dawn Of The Dead, it's actually better than all of Romero's sequels Of The Dead. The effects are variable but some of the animatronics have held up really well and it has the kind of invention and sense of humour that makes this kind of thing work well. Dated in an amusingly kitsch rather than bad way, Return Of The Living Dead still stands up as one of the best comic horror films out there.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

The Return of the Living Dead Quotes

Radio Corpse: Come in dispatch. Send more paramedics.
– Submitted by Andy H (3 years ago)
Casey: (talking to Burt) Mister, don't go in there. See, there's a thing in there. It ripped out the phone.
Burt: There's another phone in the basement.
Chuck: The basement's f**ked! You know what's in the basement?
Burt: What do you mean?
Spider: One of those f**king corpses man. A real ugly one; all black and slimy!
– Submitted by Creep F (5 years ago)
Ernie: (talking to Burt before he goes outside to make a run for it; past the zombies) Burt. That favor that you owe your ass out there.
– Submitted by Creep F (5 years ago)
1/2 Lady Corpse: (as she's tied up to the table; crying) Brains! Brains! Brains! Brains!
– Submitted by Creep F (5 years ago)

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