The Return of the Living Dead

The_Return_of_the_Living_Dead_28film29Year: 1985

Synopsis: A warehouse foreman carelessly shows accidentally obtained military drums to a new employee, setting off events that lead to a horde of brain-eating zombies.

Pros:
• A largely successful reinterpretation of the Romero-style zombie film. Was successful enough to make the need for brains synonymous with the autonomous zombie.
• At times was truly fun with its anti-nostalgia undertones.
• The way people reacted with a surreal mix of horror, humor, and stoicism felt hauntingly accurate at times.
• Broke the fourth wall in both subtle and direct ways, often through its highlighting of Night of the Living Dead (1968).
• Utilized humor to incorporate some of the more shocking elements, such as the hunger for brains, the distant army officer ordering destruction, and even suicide.
• Did not take itself that seriously.

Cons:
• Though technically balanced better than most in the cross-genre, the shifting between comedy and horror sometimes made the film feel tonally uneven.
• The blatant nihilistic tones, which were arguably stronger than Night of the Living Dead, were not for everyone.

Discussion:
“[Eating brain] makes the pain go away — the pain of being dead.”

This film may have tried to come off as humorous and fun, but that all seemed designed to bring us into a truly shocking story. Like in the film that inspired it, everyone reacted to the horror in their own way, many arguably became maniacally insane almost instantly. And why not? The dead were literally rising from their graves! The visuals were at times equal parts shockingly humorous and grotesquely horrifying. There was perhaps even less hope to fain, with destroying the zombies’ brains ineffective. The undead ranks grew exponentially, sometimes retaining some of their prior selves in their surreal addiction to eating living brains. And then, an army officer neutralized the situation, somehow pleased with casualties in the thousands, while ultimately failing to prevent more undead rising. This was easily one of the best zombie films ever made.


Rotten Tomatoes — 91%

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