31 Horror Movies I Own #11: The Return of the Living Dead
“Send. More. Cops.”
If any movie cemented my love for Zombie apocalypses, it has to be 1985’s The Return of the Living Dead. Like any good horror-obsessed-alternative teenager in the 80s, I saw this (it has The Cramps and The Damned on the soundtrack, for chrissakes!) before the original Romero Night of the Living Dead—a fine ground-breaking film in its own right, but without the glamour and glitz of this blood-soaked, special F/X-laden, naked punk-rock dancing girl extravaganza.
Opening at Uneeda Medical Supply Warehouse, foreman Frank tries to impress new teenage employee Freddy by showing him a long-abandoned US Army container holding one of the Zombies from the original film. Of course, Freddy fucks things up by “accidentally” releasing the seal on the thing, causing toxic gas to shoot up into the atmosphere and rain down on the cemetery conveniently located next to Uneeda.
A fantastic sequence involving re-animated cut-in-half dogs, pinned-down butterflies and corpses on meat hooks follows, cementing the bent humor of this film and illustrating exactly WHY I love it so much.
Throw in Freddy’s girlfriend Tina, the only good girl amongst her hardcore partying punk friends (???), and you’ve got a recipe for some tasty Zombie dinner. Of course, Freddy and Frank are headed for bad news themselves, as the virus slowly kills them and turns them into the same things they’re running from.
There are tons of great lines in RotLD to match the awesome scenes—so many that I can’t possibly mention them ALL here, but a few favorites are (of course) the iconic “Send more cops” uttered by a hungry Zombie who gets a hold of the radio in a police car after chowing down on the poor officers’ brains, and Freddy’s starve-tinged voice screaming at Tina “If you really loved me, you’d let me eat your brains!” Way to charm a girl, Fred.
All the actors in this thing are fantastic and hilarious, including the breakout performance of Scream Queen Linnea Quigley as flame-haired Trash, the aforementioned naked punk-rock girl whose worst fear is realized when the inhabits of the graveyard emerge.
This is a hilarious classic with lots of inventive gore that cannot be missed. If you haven’t seen it, you NEED to.
A note on the sequels: each one has their own charm, but none offer the complete packages of the first. Part 2 was mostly “meh”, a bland copy of this one. Part 3 gets a bit more interesting, offering up a newly zombie-ized chick who takes her love of S&M a bit too far, and Part 4 (Necropolis) was back to “meh” again, because it just tried too hard. I actually haven’t gotten around to Part 5 because, enough is enough, people.