The Return of the Living Dead - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Return of the Living Dead Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 20, 2011
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.
Super Reviewer
October 9, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
½ March 31, 2007
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.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2007
The Return of the Living Dead is one of those guilty pleasure movies that's actually much smarter in its satire and wit than one might expect. I love it for a lot of different reasons but the main ones are the fact that it's set in Louisville, Kentucky (my stomping grounds), it's about zombies and it's an 80's horror comedy that's actually very funny. Everything about it is so ridiculously fun that it's very much a comfort food sort of movie. If you don't want to be heavily engaged or not put a lot of thought process into a movie then The Return of the Living Dead is something you'll definitely enjoy. It's not a dumb movie by any means but it doesn't take an enormous amount of brain power to enjoy it.
Super Reviewer
June 18, 2011
100% ridiculous crap.
Super Reviewer
September 26, 2010
This zombie movie is so bad it's brilliant, I really liked it, and if you like zombie movies you'll enjoy it. It's gory and cheesy, and a lot of fun.
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2010
The Return Of The Living Dead is Dan O?Bannon?s directorial debut. A bloody good time from start to finish, The Return Of The Living Dead is one my personal favorites of the genre. The film itself is so over the top that you?re guaranteed a good scare and most definitely a good laugh. Dan O?Bannon has made a terrific zombie comedy. The Return Of The Living Dead is the perfect Horror comedy to watch with friends on Halloween. The film has that Halloween feel to it. Everything that O?Bannon has done with this film is phenomenal. The story is simple, yet great at the same time, the cast is amusing and the soundtrack is cool. The zombies themselves are great and it?s hinted from this film that they need brains to kill the pain of being dead. As far as I?m concerned this is THE zombie comedy to watch. Forget Shaun Of The Dead, in fact long before Shaun was fighting the dead, there was a film called Return Of The Living Dead. The film proved to be one of the best, and most original zombie comedies ever made. The film is a great blend of Horror and Comedy and what makes this film work so well is the talented cast who give great performances and laugh a minute moments. The film is at times disgusting, but what do you expect from a zombie flick? What makes the film a real winner is the witty dialogue, and strong script from Dan O'Bannon. Return Of The Living dead is a terrific achievement in Horror, and is one of the greatest Zombie comedies ever made. For me, it?s hard to pick a favorite zombie comedy because there are so many, Army Of Darkness, Shaun Of The Dead, Fido, Zombieland an Re-Animator. But this is without a doubt one of my favorites.
The Return Of The Living Dead has definitely got a secured place in the zombie genre. The film is a definite must see for zombie fans, and of all the zombie films that I have seen, The Return Of The Living Dead is one of the most memorable films of the genre. This is one hysterical and fun zombie film that you won?t soon forget. The film is filled with dark humour, and the film is solid do to the colorful cast of characters. A solid film from start to finish, The Return Of The Living Dead won't disappoint.
Super Reviewer
½ November 18, 2009
A great comedy based on Romero's classic Night Of The Living Dead. I loved the overly campy performances and extravagant costuming. The effects were amazing, some of the best of its time. The music fit in perfectly with the style they were going for and made everything a lot more fun. I loved the story, it was a great way of dealing with a zombie situation.
Super Reviewer
½ April 10, 2007
One of the great horror-comedies

Super Reviewer
April 10, 2008
Return of the Living Dead is a parody of the George Romero Living Dead films that instead of a depressing, feeling of dread throughout the picture, we get an almost comic book style film with wit.

In Return the film Night of the Living Dead is actually a fictionalized account of what happened at a V.A. hospital during a chemical spill. Two medical warehouse employees (James Karen and Thom Matthews) stumble on some barrels containing zombies that have been accidentally delivered to the warehouse. When the seal breaks on the canister we are treated to the terror that can only come with the living dead rising from the grave.

What's great about this film is that where a Romero zombie film is deadly serious, Return doesn't take itself seriously at all. The characters are way over the top, especially the teenagers who are so stereotyped within themselves you'll wonder why they're hanging out together in the first place. Clu Gulager plays the stereotypical boss trying to cover his ass when the tanks are compromised and Don Calfa sealed his cult status by playing the mortician Ernie who carries around a German pistol and smokes a pipe. These are the kind of over the top characters that I'm talking about. Return of the Living Dead is a parody of a genre that long needed one.

I'm not calling Return a masterpiece. It's far from it. But what it represents is a film that not only scares you, but makes you laugh and this formula has been reused time and again (Freddy Krueger's comedic switch, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) but Return is the perfect example of that. Over the top actors and over the top acting with great effects and directorial style make this film a cut above in a genre that has been glutted with pure garbage.
Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2008
Another 'fondly' remembered 80s extravagant b-movie on purpose with hilarious situations and dialogues.
The guys from 'Shaun of the dead' owe a lot to Dan O'Bannon and the good old Tar-man.
Super Reviewer
½ June 11, 2008
This is a hilarious take on the zombie film, and one that even set some standards of its own (such as zombies solely craving brains). The movie is very ridiculous, with lots of over-acting and plenty of outrageous scenes, but it's all very fun and tongue-in-cheek. The soundtrack also rules. So, while this is far from being a great movie overall, it's a highly entertaining horror comedy that is worth checking out.
Super Reviewer
½ February 2, 2008
the first zombie movie I ever saw
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2007
One of the best Zombie Films ever made.
Super Reviewer
½ September 15, 2007
This movie is more fun than anything. You know when the Cat in the Hat promised the kids "lots of good fun that is funny"? He could have just had them watch this. I love how it makes reference to Romero's original and gives the undead actual dialogue. I didn't think this would be much good, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Super Reviewer
½ August 2, 2007
Dead people eating live people. It's a little on the comedic side as well. Recommended for the horror fans.
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2007
This movie is okay. It has a great setting of a graveyard and funeral home. The zombies look great. Gore is there. It has a great movie poster.

I just didn't laugh at most of the humour as intended. None of the characters particularly interested me; I wanted the zombies to eat them.
Super Reviewer
½ May 19, 2007
This is one of those very rare films that combines good black humor with bloody, messy gore and does it perfectly. Where `Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' fails miserably, `Return of the Living Dead' succeeds triumphantly. It takes a tired plot (zombies eat teenagers) and makes it new again. The teenagers here are not faceless, stupid, oversexed victims at all. They are misfits and outsiders, the kind of kids who probably go to horror movies every day and make fun of the faceless, stupid, oversexed victims who populated the majority of the slasher films made in the 1980s. The nihilistic punk rock teens can identify with the zombies, and even though it is their ultimate fate to be consumed by them, you like them, you want them to survive and you're sorry to see them go even though the zombies are every bit as cool.

Long before `28 Days Later' appeared, `Return of the Living Dead' presented us with FAST zombies, zombies who could run, jump and work together like a football team, tackling people and making it a group effort to tear their victims apart. There are very few slow, shuffling monsters here; these are zombies to contend with. They talk, they think, they problem solve. Who could ever forget the Tar Man (my personal favorite) rigging up a device to tear down the metal closet doors, behind which our heroine has locked herself?

The adult characters in this film are no less interesting than the teenagers. James Karen is absolutely hysterical in his role as a medical warehouse manager, whose bumbling irresponsibility leads to the zombies being unleashed. Clu Gulager is a stressed out corporate jerk who will do anything to save the name and reputation of the warehouse he owns. And Don Calfa is excellent as the slightly shady mortician who may or may not be an ex-Nazi. The mismatched cast really comes together and forms a bond here, fighting back and growing more desperate as the zombies grow stronger. This film never lets up, not for one minute. There are no long explanation scenes, no boring set-up, just in-your-face excitement from the very first scene. It is the perfect homage to the Romero films; there is no happy ending here, only an ironic twist which will make even the most cynical doomsayer grin. This film is already a cult classic and deserves its status. It's as close to flawless as you can get.
Super Reviewer
May 9, 2007
If you liked Shaun of the Dead, you'll dig this.
Super Reviewer
March 19, 2007
Good entertaining horror piss-take on George Romero's zombie trilogy, with a kinky subtext on the eroticism of death. The laughs and chills are somewhat clumsily integrated, though.
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