Celebrating 32 Years of the ‘Return of the Living Dead’
What we learnt from the 1985 Zombie film The Return of the Living Dead?
One word that will always be associated with zombies. But how did it happen? Of course, it was because of the zombie master, late George Romero, right?
It was actually the “unsung co-creator of the modern zombie”, Dan O’Bannon. While Romero made zombies a household name with his classic Night of the Living Dead, it was the lesser known Return of the Living Dead that revolutionized the idea of what we think about zombies and in more than one ways, changed the ‘Rules of / for the Dead’.
This month marks the 32nd year of the release of the 1985 classic and as responsible freelance zombie experts that we are, we watched this brain-eating mayhem again to marvel at its genius and madness.
The Return of the Living Dead is a 1985 American black comedy/zombie film written & directed by Dan O’Bannon. From giving us talking zombies to featuring some of the best death-rock/punk bands, this ‘overnight zombie apocalypse’ is a witty brainload of hard-rocking extravaganza. But it isn’t just that!
Let’s celebrate 32 years of this guilty pleasure of a movie while we learn things you (probably) didn’t know. Have your notepads ready?
So, here we go:
It was supposed to be a serious zombie film, much like its predecessor
The film has its roots in a novel by John Russo, Night of the Living Dead writer. When Russo and Romero parted ways, Russo retained the rights to any titles featuring the ‘Living Dead’ and started working on the pre-production of the film. It was only when Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist fame) backed out of the project that O’Bannon was offered the Director’s seat. He accepted on one condition that he could rewrite the film radically to differentiate it from Romero’s films. The rest, as they say, is history.
Zombies are smarter than you thought! Be careful.
(Proof: They called the hospital staff and the police saying “there is a need of more people”. Come on! That was pretty cool.)
And they could run.
It wasn’t easy to get these (big!) changes approved, though, as reports say that the producers “hated the fact that the zombies ran.” For them, the zombies were the traditional lumbering kind. You know, the ones that we are familiar with in the cult, The Walking Dead series. The Director, however, had different plans. “It’s just so familiar the other way. I wanted to surprise the audience.” And he sure did.
Zombies are indestructible! Damn!
You burn them to ashes. They evaporate. It rains which falls on the graves. That means more zombies!
Another creative thought that got the green light and made us understand how difficult it could be to ‘kill the dead’. Watch that film and share with us if you weren’t taken aback when this happened. It was mind-boggling to see that and as any “normal person” would, it will make you think of ways to survive in that situation and get rid of the undead. And when a fictional character makes us do that, the Director knows he has succeeded.
We got to know why Zombies eat brain. And it was revealed by a zombie!
Like we mentioned in the starting, this film is credited with introducing the popular concept of zombies eating brains, as opposed to just eating human flesh, like all previous zombie iterations. Something to boast about, right?
In one of the scenes when the protagonists are examining a zombie, the secret is revealed. We get to know why they eat brains. The reason was pretty simple, they are in a lot of pain & brain sort-of acts as a pain-relief.
Oh yeah, none of them seem to be happy to be resurrected. They never asked for a second life as an undead any more than they were given a choice to be born the first time. Deep.
Breaking the fourth wall – That reference to Night of the Living Dead
The movie starts with a notice that the events in this film actually happened, and the names haven’t been changed from the real people that they happened to.
A new guy, Freddy, is being shown the ropes by Frank at the Uneeda Medical Supply warehouse. According to Frank, there was an accidental Trioxin spill at a Pittsburgh hospital that caused the dead bodies at the hospital morgue to mimic life! He further explains that this gruesome incident and the government cover-up inspired George Romero to make the Night of the Living Dead, which the film name-checks openly. Lovely, no?
Convincing performances by the cast, fantastic punk-rock soundtrack, a solid script and direction make this film a must-watch for every horror-genre lover. Take out some time this weekend and appreciate this 91-minute creativity. We are sure you will be a fan of this guilty pleasure.
It must be evident now that we are big zombie fans. We love vampires too (not the sparkling ‘Twilight’ ones though!) but that’s a story for some other day.
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