Return of the Living Dead

By the time the synth-rock laced theme kicks in under the opening credits ten-minutes into the movie, you've already had 10 puns, 5 "hip" punk teenagers (with 1 clean-cut "girl next door" thrown in for good measure), bare breasts, 3 references to Night of the Living Dead , 2 pratfalls, and an animatronic dead guy shoved in a canister who can convert gooey flesh into zombie making gas.

*Sniff* that's right ladies. That smell isn't rotting corpses, it's the 80's!

Written and Directed by Alien -scribe Dan O'Bannon , the film takes a much lighter tone with the material than the bleak seriousness found in the Romero picture, which I keep referencing because of the odd relationship Return has with the 1968 classic.

John Russo , who wrote the novel from which the film takes its inspiration, as well as the first draft of the screenplay, also was a co-screenwriter on Night of the Living Dead. As a matter of fact, Day of the Dead, the second Romero-helmed sequel was slated to come out at the same time as Return, a fact that didn't sit too well with Romero at all. After some legal wrangling, Russo retained the right to use the "Living Dead"name, while giving up the right to reference the original in his marketing.

O'Bannon however, wanted to differentiate himself from Romero's series in a more distinct way: By making it an outright comedy, all the while poking fun at its relationship to the original. Everybody in the movie has seen Night of the Living Dead, and use it as their basis for fighting back the ever increasing numbers of flesh-munchers. Something that doesn't serve them too well, I'm afraid.

These zombies are all together more formidable than than the slow-moving consumer corpses from Night and Dawn of the Dead. When a zombie fails to die (again) from a pick-axe being embedded in its skull, one of the characters exclaims "Well, it worked in the movie!"

As a matter of fact, this movie illustrates some of the first instances of the running zombie. But even better, we have the naked dancing zombie chick. Beeing an 80's teen movie, there is the obligatory scene when the punk rock girl does a naked dance number in the middle of the graveyard for no real reason... only to be mauled to death and spend the next hour walking around naked and eating people with a mouth that would make a porn star jealous.

This film is pure genius for the simple fact that it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is: utterly (if you'll forgive the expression) brain-dead. Add to that the jammin' 80's rock soundtrack that is peppered with songs like "Eyes Without A Face" by a band called The Flesh Eaters, you know you're in for a good time.