Return of the Living Dead is considered a quintessential summertime horror comedy, so plenty of genre fans were singing its praises over the long 4th of July weekend. It’s amazing how, even though the film is over 30 years old, I’m still finding out new information that makes me love this enduring classic even more. I had no idea until recently that Texas Chainsaw Massacre mastermind Tobe Hooper was originally slated to direct RotLD, but backed out at the last minute to direct Lifeforce (also released in 1985).
Dan O’Bannon, who wrote the screenplay for Alien, had been brought on board to give the script for RotLD a final polish, and it was only after Hooper’s departure that he was encouraged to helm; this was to become his first turn, in fact, in the prestigious Director’s chair. These and other facts are explored in the recent retrospective from Syfy Wire: Return of the Living Dead: Everything You Didn’t Know.
Related Article: See Alternate Intro and Ending to “Return of the Living Dead”
While More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead, released in 2011, remains the best source for production insights, the hosts of Syfy Wire discuss how the film’s zombies differentiated themselves from previously established subgenre tropes. John Russo co-wrote the seminal Night of the Living Dead with George A. Romero; since the creative duo split under difficult circumstances, Russo wanted his innovations to be profound—and they were.
As opposed to Romero’s undead, Russo’s zombies could run and speak. Furthermore, they can’t be taken down by a single shot to the head; these undead can’t be decapitated; dismemberment doesn’t work, and even incineration is problematic. Russo’s zombies retain higher brain functions, making them more formidable adversaries than Romero’s spaced-out shambles. Watch the video below to learn more about how Return of the Living Dead evolved and developed.
Official Synopsis: More About Return of the Living Dead: The Return of the Living Dead is a 1985 American horror comedy film written and directed by Dan O’Bannon, and starring Clu Gulager, James Karen, and Don Calfa. The film tells the story of how a warehouse owner accompanied by his two employees, mortician friend, and a group of teenage punks deal with the accidental release of a horde of brain-hungry zombies onto an unsuspecting town. The film is known for introducing the popular concept of zombies eating brains, as opposed to just eating human flesh, like previous zombie iterations, as well as its soundtrack, which features several noted deathrock and punk rock bands of the era. The film was a critical success and performed moderately well at the box office. Its enduring popularity has spawned four sequels and turned it into a cult classic.
SYFY WIRE is dedicated to all things science fiction, fantasy and supernatural horror (with some other stuff like space and future technology thrown in for good measure). It features news and original reporting about movies, TV, games, books, genre figures and more. We’ve got recaps, interviews, movie trailers, and sneak peeks at upcoming TV shows. Plus: Top 10 lists, Q&As, videos, funny stuff and a lot more.
Official Synopsis: Retrospective documentary about the making of the horror cult classic “The Return of the Living Dead.”