It seems as of late that I’m getting rocked by zombie movies - and not in a good way. I love zombies, I truly do. I love that they’ve replaced rom-com vampires as the new it-horror-creature and I love that their revolution stays true to horror (i.e. The Walking Dead). But it seems the zombie films I review fall short of both my expectations and their established cult following. For example, I strongly disliked the original Dawn of the Dead; I thought it was dull and far too long. I enjoyed the remake of it, though, but the fact remains that most of society loved the original and thinks I’m crazy. This appears to be true of my latest zombie conquest, The Return of the Living Dead. I’m certain this movie has a strong cult following and I know people freaking love it, but I didn’t. The movie is something of a spoof on Night of the Living Dead and the zombie sub-genre in general, so it arguably doesn’t even belong in horror but in horror-comedy instead. However, if we’re sticking it in horror, it’s certainly not saving it. There is absolutely nothing scary or gory or frightening or creepy about the film other than the horrific acting and bad graphics. Now, if I’m correct in assuming both of those faults are an intentional commentary on how zombies are portrayed in films, then the next step would be to chuckle and nod in agreement. Guess again. This film fails as both a horror and a mock-horror because it’s neither scary nor funny. It’s just dumb and silly and I can think of other films in the genre that managed to both comment on and provide horror while still keeping their dignity.
Released in 1985, The Return of the Living Dead follows a few employees at a medical supply company as they unintentionally release a zombie toxin into the air resulting in dead bodies everywhere coming back to life. The film is bizarre from beginning to end, featuring a chick who spends most of the film completely naked (except for a pair of leg warmers) and zombies with yellow skin reminiscent of jaundice. Clocking in at barely 90 minutes, the movie still feels like a marathon and I struggled to stay engaged throughout the entire thing. I know people will say I just didn’t get this film and it’s hilarious and it’s the Airplane! of horror. And I saw that intention and that potential, but I didn’t see that result. I’m giving this film a three because of the promise it had and the idea behind it, but in horror, it’s not the thought that counts. I wasn’t scared and on the flip side, I wasn’t provided with a deep insight into horror that was humorous and scary. Scream and The Cabin in the Woods do it better. I think this film wanted to be a low-budget version of Zombieland, but that film isn’t horror. It’s horror-comedy.
I wish I loved this film, I truly wanted to. But The Return of the Living Dead simply didn’t bring anything to the table for me. I can see why people love it, but it fell short for me. Horror island has nothing to worry about with the zombies from this film. Current zombies on the island, however, should be upset about welcoming these guys into their ranks. Zombies just became a little less powerful with this film.
If you liked The Return of the Living Dead, you might also like Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead (2004).