My occupation meets a quick end in this flick, but I’ll be damned if I let any zombies take me down that easy!
Screenplay By: Dan O’Bannon
Directed By: Dan O’Bannon
I happened to glance at Leonard’s Maltin’s review of The Return Of The Living Dead in the 2011 edition of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide. I realize I am a few editions behind, but I regularly use Mr. Maltin’s book as a quick resource guide. I very rarely agree with him, and in the blurb that he wrote for The Return Of The Living Dead I again found myself shaking my head. Mr. Maltin does not get horror, I know that’s a bold statement and a bit pompous on my part. But, I fail to see how anyone who gets horror could watch The Return Of The Living Dead and think for a second that it is trying to be serious. I shake my head at Mr. Maltin, because he can dislike The Return Of The Living Dead all he wants, but to think the movie takes on a serious tone in its second half is just absurd.
The Return Of The Living Dead is a great example of not just comedy horror, but ridiculous comedy horror. There isn’t a moment during the films entire run time when it wants or desires to be taken seriously. Dan O’Bannon realizes right away that he simply can not compete with the likes of Night Of The Living Dead or Dawn Of The Dead, so he never tries to compete with those zombie horror titans. Instead, Mr. O’Bannon takes The Return Of The Living Dead in another direction, that of being ridiculously over the top.
There aren’t many actual jokes in The Return Of The Living Dead. In place of jokes are far fetched characters, recognizable situations gone horribly awry, and call backs to familiar horror tropes that are morpohed into something utterly ludicrous.The comedy of The Return Of The Living Dead is based more on the scenarios that flash across the screen. Frank’s whining isn’t a joke, but his complete ineptitude is funny. The zombies using the ambulance and police car radios to call for more brains to eat isn’t a joke, but it is funny because of how it happens. The Return Of The Living Dead isn’t a series of jokes, it is a series of funny scenarios and happenings.
Mr. O’Bannon plays it fast and loose with some traditional horror elements. Linnea Quigley spends almost all of her screen time completely naked, and thank heaven for that. The gore flows freely, and something like the Tarman zombie is a great concoction. The characters aren’t stupid necessarily, but they do stupid things and make bad decisions as the situation they are in gets worse. Mr. O’Bannon changes the zombies a little bit, not to make them scarier or more efficient. The zombies new found ability to move fast and talk makes them a heck of a lot funnier. There are some new twists on old ideas in The Return Of The Living Dead as well as some old dogs doing the same old tricks, and it all adds up to a fun experience.
I’m going to use that word again, fun. I had a lot of fun watching The Return Of The Living Dead. I know some people don’t like that word as a form of criticism. I, however, have no problem using it and I feel that in the case of The Return Of The Living Dead it is the best word to describer the experience I had with the film. The Return Of The Living Dead is not a tent pole horror movie, but it is a well made, and ridiculously over the top, comedy horror movie that I had lots of fun with.