My exposure to '80s horror was hit-and-miss thanks to loving parents who kept me as sheltered as they could from the "evils" of the gory genre. So I did what every naughty kid would do: I went to my Dad's every summer and caught up on everything I'd missed during the past year. Many movies I caught through late-night marathons of HBO and Cinemax. Some slipped through the cracks, however. One of those was "The Return of the Living Dead".
I first caught "The Return of the Living Dead" one early morning a couple of years ago. I was flipping through the channels while looking for something to watch during my morning ride on my exercise bike. The blend of excessive gore and slapstick humor had me giggling and smiling the entire time. I'd found a new favorite film.
Scream Factory brings “The Return of the Living Dead” home in a new Collector’s Edition. The two-disc set is packed full of bonus material and a 2K scan of the interpositive guaranteeing a better viewing experience than you’ve ever had watching this classic bloodbath. Dan O’Bannon wrote and directed his take on “Night of the Living Dead” co-writer John A. Russo’s horror novel.
On his first day on the job at a medical supply warehouse, poor Freddy (Thom Mathews) unwittingly releases toxic gas from a secret U.S. military canister, unleashing an unbelievable terror. The gas reanimates an army of corpses, who arise from their graves with a ravenous hunger... for human brains! And luckily for those carnivorous cadavers, there is a group of partying teens nearby, just waiting to be eaten in “The Return of the Living Dead”.
A brief history on the origins of “The Return of the Living Dead” are in order. George A. Romero and John A. Russo wrote the original “Night of the Living Dead”, kickstarting the zombie craze that still stalks us five decades later. The two had a dispute over what direction sequels to the movie should go in. They decided to split ways and each one could do what they wanted as long as they followed one simple rule. Romero’s follow-ups were referred to as the “Dead” movies and Russo’s carried “Living Dead” in their titles. Thus, two very different horror franchises were born.
Scream Factory’s “The Return of the Living Dead” Collector’s Edition is loaded with special features. Disc One includes new audio commentary with Gary Smart (Co-author of “The Complete History of ‘The Return of the Living Dead’”) and Chris Griffiths. New audio commentary is also provided by actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin, and Make-up Effects Artist Tony Gardner. Two more audio commentaries feature Director Dan O’Bannon, Production Designer William Stout, and the cast and crew. A featurette on ‘80s horror films entitled “The Decade of Darkness” is found as well. There are also theatrical trailers, TV spots, still galleries, zombie subtitles for the film, and “In Their Own Words - The Zombies Speak”.
Disc Two contains a ton of new featurettes like “The FX of the Living Dead”, “Party Time: The Music of ‘The Return of the Living Dead’”, and “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds - Revisiting the Locations of the Film”. The workprint of the movie is found, too. Interviews with Writer / Director Dan O’Bannon and Creator John A. Russo are also included. “More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead” definitive documentary and a couple more featurettes cover everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the cult classic.
The movie is rated R for nudity and adult situations, violence and gore, profanity, and frightening and intense scenes. There’s quite a bit of unnecessary nudity to some degree or another, both male and female. Full frontal nudity is implied, but a prosthetic patch actually covers any of the midsection area giving the character a “Barbie look”. Everything else is par for the course when it comes to zombie movies.
"The Return of the Living Dead" is what I would consider to be an essential piece of '80s horror history. When you think of all the different components that make up the decade, they're all found here. It's the "Valley Girl" and "Clueless" for the genre. Director / Writer Dan O'Bannon captured lightning, blood, and guts in a bottle in a unique way that filmmakers have been trying to duplicate ever since.
"The Return of the Living Dead" Collector's Edition is available now on Blu-ray.