James Karen as Frank
Thom Matthews as Freddy
Clu Gulager as Burt Wilson
Don Calfa as Ernie Kaltenbrunner
Beverly Randolph as Tina
The occasion: The Zombie Master’s birthday.
The party location: The Hwy 51 Drive-In for the opening night of Return of the Living Dead.
I will never forget that night. While most of my friends were cowering in disgust, I had a grin on my face that took weeks to pry off. Come to think of it, my phone didn’t ring quite as much after that night. Oh well.
Return of the Living Dead starts with Uncle Frank (James Karen) showing his nephew Freddy (Thom Matthews) around UNEEDA Medical Supply on Freddy’s first day of work. During conversation, Frank proceeds to tell Freddy that the movie Night of the Living Dead was based on a true story. How does Frank know? Because the military inadvertently shipped some containers to the UNEEDA warehouse that contain dormant reanimated corpses.
Seeing that Freddy thinks that he is full of it, Uncle Frank takes Freddy down to the basement to see the containers. Wanting to show the scared Freddy that he has nothing to worry about with the canisters being there, Frank decides to show that they are indeed durable by smacking the side of one of them. This of course creates a crack and releases a very dangerous toxin (Trioxin 245) into the air vents of the warehouse.
This being a medical warehouse, there just so happens to be a cadaver in the freezer section which just so happens to come in contact with the Trioxin 245 and spring to life. Frank and Freddy try to kill it by putting a pick ax into its head. This does not work (to be discussed later) and they cut off the head. When this doesn’t work, they decide that the best thing to do is to burn it in the crematorium across the street.
This then sends the ashes, and the toxin, into the outside air where it is raining – and the toxic rain falls on a graveyard where a bunch of Freddy’s friends are waiting for him. I think we all know where this leads.
Return of the Living Dead is among the classic zombie films of all time. It is a must see for any aspiring “Zombie Master”. It also breaks just about the entire list of zombie movie rules. The zombies can not be killed by a shot to the head. They don’t even die when you sever the head. Zombies shouldn’t have an intelligence level higher than a potato bug let alone be able to call in police backup. Zombies should not be able to carry on a conversation.
So why do I like Return of the Living Dead so much? Because writer/director Dan O’Bannon didn’t write a serious zombie movie, he wrote a satirical zombie movie. He meant to break the rules and he succeeded in creating a movie that had fun at making fun of its self. Return of the Living Deadis a truly funny movie that should not be taken seriously. Return of the Living Dead also has some great zombie gore that can stand up to the best in the genre.
Now…why do I really like Return of the Living Dead?