Tuesday 5 June 2012


The unofficial 'sort of' sequel to George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Dan O'Bannon's cult classic horror comedy The Return of the Living Dead is out on Blu-ray this week.

When two warehouse workers unwittingly open a government owned storage tanker that releases a toxic gas into the area, not only do they start to slowly decompose into a state of shivering necrosis, the occupants of the local graveyard start to rise up and attack them. Seeking the help of a local morgue worker and a group of young punks that were hanging around the graveyard, they must band together to survive the oncoming zombie onslaught.

Sometimes films get given the 'cult classic' tag without really earning the status. 1985's The Return of the Living Dead is not one of those films. Subversive through and through, what's so brilliant about Return... is how many ways it exceeds expectations. Credited with introducing zombies' hunger for brains, whilst not completely re-inventing the shambling, decomposing wheel of the zombie film, it stands out from the crowd by offering something different in a genre constantly defined by what George A. Romero did 20 years earlier.

Of course, Return's genesis started at a similar place to the original Night of the Living Dead, coming from the mind of John Russo, Romero's co-screenwriter on the original film in his Dead saga. Parting professional ways sometime in the 70's, both parties agreed that they could produce their own sequels to Night, with Russo releasing a novel bearing the same name of this movie whilst Romero completed his trilogy with Dawn and then Day of the Dead.

Russo's involvement is by the by though, as the real creative force behind the film is Dan O'Bannon, screenwriter of John Carpenter's Dark Star and Ridley Scott's Alien, making his directorial debut with this film. Taking Russo's straight faced horror (that lacked the social commentary that became Romero's hallmark) and reworking it into the story of a group of foolish punks hanging around a graveyard at the wrong time, it's the humour that sets this film apart.

A film that I've talked about at length before, it's great to see it given such fantastic treatment on blu-ray. It's a nice clean transfer of the film, and the disc (housed in a great looking steel book) has an almost exhaustive amount of extras that covers everything from what the filming locations look like now, to the impact the film had on 45 Grave, an obscure 80's punk band whose song featured in one of the film's most iconic scenes.

The absolute jewel in the crown of extras is the 2 hour long More Brains! documentary that covers the complete history of the film with interviews by almost everybody involved in the production. Even if you're new to this franchise, after seeing the film this is a fascinating look behind the scenes, and seeing as this was previously available in the US as a stand alone release complete with its own array of extras, it's pretty good that it all comes bundled with this blu-ray package.

Followed by three increasingly inferior sequels, the 'original' Return... still holds up as a standout example of the genre. By injecting a healthy dose of humour and some fantastic creature design (the Tarman is one of the all time great zombies), this apocalyptic comedy is a must own for any true fan of the zombie genre.


Special Features:

+ More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead - 2 hour doc featuring interviews with all involved
+ Dan O'Bannon: The Final Interview
+ The Origins of Return of the Living Dead
+ They Won't Stay Dead: Looking at part 2
+ Love Beyond The Grave: Looking at part 3
+ Return of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes
+ Resurrected Settings: The locations as they are today
+ Party Time: Interview with 45 Grave singer Dinah Cancer
+ The FX of the Living Dead
+ Original and remixed soundtracks

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