The Return of the Living Dead 1985

The Return of the Living Dead

Critics Consensus

A punk take on the zombie genre, Return of the Living Dead injects a healthy dose of '80s silliness to the flesh consuming.

91%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 44

79%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 55,327

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Movie Info

When foreman Frank (James Karen) shows new employee Freddy (Thom Mathews) a secret military experiment in a supply warehouse, the two klutzes accidentally release a gas that reanimates corpses into flesh-eating zombies. As the epidemic spreads throughout Louisville, Ky., and the creatures satisfy their hunger in gory and outlandish ways, Frank and Freddy fight to survive with the help of their boss (Clu Gulager) and a mysterious mortician (Don Calfa).

Cast & Crew

Clu Gulager
Burt Wilson
Don Calfa
Ernie Kaltenbrunner
Miguel A. Núñez Jr.
Spider
Brian Peck
Scuz
John Daly
Executive Producer
Derek Gibson
Executive Producer
Tom Fox
Producer
Matt Clifford
Original Music
Francis Haines
Original Music
Jules Brenner
Cinematographer
Robert Gordon
Film Editor
William Stout
Production Design
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News & Interviews for The Return of the Living Dead

Critic Reviews for The Return of the Living Dead

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (40) | Rotten (4)

  • O'Bannon deserves considerable credit for creating a terrifically funny first half-hour of exposition, something in which he is greatly aided by the goofball performance of James Karen as a medical supply know-it-all.

    March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Any film which features a dead, bald and very hungry punk lurching towards the camera screaming 'More Brains!' gets my vote.

    June 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The volume of stagy gore quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…
  • It's kind of a sensation-machine, made out of the usual ingredients, and the real question is whether it's done with style. It is.

    January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • It's a mammoth amount of fun, with a sharp trashy punk/new wave soundtrack and a trio of perfect performances by middle-aged actors in the midst of posturing, attitudinizing youth.

    September 14, 2020 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • The scares are always accompanied by silliness, though the special makeup effects are often outstanding, contributing to a considerable yuck factor.

    September 7, 2020 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Return of the Living Dead

  • 4d ago
    Perfect over-the-top horror-comedy of the 1980's -- an instant cult classic and great watch for Halloween.
    Mark B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 01, 2020
    Return of the Living Dead is a refreshing twist on the genre while respecting Night of the Living Dead. The story of Russo and Romero is quite well known to fans so it was nice to see a linkage shown to that earlier film. Dan O'Bannon ultimately didn't use Russo's novel as the direct adaptation and I feel Return of the Living Dead would've been just another shallow copycat. The film as it stands is quite funny and daring. The dead are more lethal and harder to kill. This film should've been a one film only as the sequels rob the ending of this film. The film plays with the formula of zombies a little different and that's why Return of the Living Dead is a nice companion to Romero's work. The film is definitely in the cult status arena, so it won't appeal to everyone, but overall I thought it was fun and offered something different for the sub genre. 01/07/2020
    Brendan O Super Reviewer
  • Dec 11, 2017
    Return of the Living Dead is zany, gross and really quite messy throughout. A madcap, punk-fest of a zombie flick that isn't afraid to gross out it's audience and fling guts out of every corner of the screen wherever it can. Return of the Living Dead interesting coined the phrase, "braaaaains" associated with the zombie genre and is memorable not just because of this, but also because of it's cast of dedicated actors who go above and beyond to deliver some of the cheesiest yet enthusiastic performances seen in any mid-eighties horror film. It's almost a love letter to punk and Dan O'Bannon was just that in his attempt to make a zombie film that would stand the test of time. It's dated by today's standards, but the humour involved is timeless.
    Harry W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 17, 2015
    So. Much. Damn. Fun. The Return of the Living Dead always takes me back to being a teenager. In a good way. Trash is taking off her clothes again.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer

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