A couple of decades before Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland made audiences scream and laugh at the sight of zombies eating your flesh and brains, Return of the Living Dead paid tribute to the horror frenzy of Romero Zombie films that came before. This same year Romero would release his most gruesome film, “Day of the Dead”. Early on in production, the producers and director wanted to make a film that was sort of a homage to the 1969 classic Night of the Living Dead. It is a tribute to that old Drive -In Horror movie era.
Now the first time I saw this film was when I was about twelve years ago and my cousin had a copy on VHS. We sat down and watched it, and my jaw dropped on how crazy this movie was. We had to turn off the movie ever so often when his parents would come in the room so that they wouldn’t see us watching blood and guts and tits. All necessary things to have in a horror movie by the way.
Merely chalking Return of the Living Dead as a horror comedy really doesn’t do this justice. This really is the ultimate 80’s horror film from my youth. It has some genuinely freaky moments, some over the top gore and a ghoulish sense of humor. If you’re not laughing at a naked, frozen cadaver sprinting towards a screeching homeless guy or one of the characters discovering that movies lie about how to kill zombies, then surely you’ll chuckle at reanimated corpses chanting “brains” or roll your eyes when another character gives his short soliloquy about his look being a lifestyle. I mean this movie has it all. This a must own for anytime of the year.
The Picture Quality
Back in 2007, a big Collector’s edition of this movie was released and the director worked on remastering it. This seems to be the same transfer on bluray which is a good thing. It looks clear with the same feel as an 80’s movie. It is presented in 1080p in 1.85:1. Facial close-ups are great and the contrast is bright that gives the visibility of objects in the background some depth and clarity. Some of the black levels are not consistent with the rest of the film but it is barely noticeable. It is a great release but it would have been nice for a new HD transfer.
The Audio Quality
This release comes with a DTS-HS audio track which is the best out of all previous releases. But since it was recorded in mono, do not expect somethingAMAZING. It doesn’t pack a punch that would scare you out of your seat like newer recorded movies would do, but for mono quality, it does the trick. It brings you back to that nostalgic 80’s era.
This is where my MAJOR gripe comes in. The cover art for this release is NOT the awesome art that we are all used to. Instead we get the decayed text in red with a one zombie jumping out at you towards the bottom of the cover. What was wrong with the zombie punks in the graveyard? That is an iconic image. Why didn’t you keep that? It is overall a very unattractive cover. They should have kept it original. The discs main menu is pretty cool though. It zooms through the graveyard where their are full motion clips on all the tombstones with some instrumental music playing.
If you own previous editions, then all of those features were transfered to this release. This is a good thing, because the extras are heavy plenty of them.
- Audio Commentaries — Two separate feature-length tracks are ported over from the earlier DVD releases. First up is director Dan O’Bannon and production designer William Stout. Immediately, things are off to a good start, as before introducing themselves O’Bannon is compelled to tell viewers that this film is absolutely based on true facts. Despite being a very scene-specific commentary, both men are talkative and crack jokes at one another as well as about the movie. O’Bannon, of course, spends more time explaining the origins of certain lines and working with the cast, while Stout examines the look and prop design, offering some great anecdotes behind the production. Overall, this is an enjoyable and informative commentary track that’s worth a listen. Our second audio track features Stout once more, and he’s joined by cast members Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph, and Allan Trautman. Although not as energetic as the previous selection, the group is quite chatty with nary a moment of silence. Everyone offers minor quips about the production and behind-the-scenes stories, from casting to wardrobe. They even throw in a few compliments to the crew and Stout’s work, and there’s also an interesting comment about Ed Gein’s death at around the same time as shooting. We also learn that Quigley’s dancing scene on the set was while Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girls” played in the background. The discussion offers a fun listen with several good tidbits spread throughout and one strange moment of weirdness.
- “The Dead Have Risen” (SD, 21 min) — A short retrospective with cast members sharing their experiences working on the movie. Although it’s mostly a whole lot of praising, there is the occasional comment about the characters and preparation that makes it worth a look.
- “The Decade of Darkness” (SD, 23 min) — Made up mostly of interviews with various filmmakers, including a few funny bits with Elvira, this piece is an awesome look back at the 1980s, a booming decade of some of the wildest and creative horror movies that has yet to be matched.
- “Designing the Dead” (SD, 14 min) — Director Dan O’Bannon talks about how he came to work in the film industry and how the script for this movie landed on his lap. Along with William Stout providing a historical setting, O’Bannon also shares his reasons for changing the original concept into a comedy.
- Trailers (SD) — Two theatrical previews are offered here: a green band version dubbed the “Bloody Version” and the red band called “Even Bloodier Version.”
- Zombie Subtitle Stream — This is much like a separate subtitle track for when zombies scream. And all we see is the words “aaarrrgghh!!” every once in a while on the screen. It’s nothing wholly exciting.
- In Their Own Words: The Zombies Speak — This is a pretty weak attempt at comedy, pretending like zombies are making random comments at the movie.
- DVD — A standard definition copy of the film is also included in the package with the same assortment of special features.
Overall, I think this is a solid release, but I do not think it will be the last one. I do like the fact that you get the DVD and Bluray with this purchase. The audio is the best you will have so far with this release and the picture is solid. This is truly a gem of a film and a must own for any horror fans.
Make the purchase by clicking the link/picture below in time for Halloween.