MOVIE: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Oh GOD, I love this movie. And it’d been so long since I’d seen it that I’d practically forgotten all the reasons why. Reasons which I can now efficiently sum up with just two words: 1) über-hilariousness and 2) BRRRRAAAAAINS!!!

As this piece of cinematic genius opens, a young man named Freddy has just gotten a job at a medical supply company.  His first night at his new gig, his boss Frank tells him a story.  “You know that movie, Night of the Living Dead?” his boss asks.  “Whelp, did you know it was based on a true story?”

You see, according to Frank, in 1969 in Pittsburgh, a chemical spill leaked down into a military base’s morgue, contaminating the bodies and making them all “jump around like they were alive.”  The chemical?  254 Trioxin, which, Frank says, was originally developed to kill marijuana (no word on its ability to prevent premarital sex, though. . .).

The military base immediately shut down and shipped the contaminated bodies out.  Only, the transportation department got their orders mixed up and. . . guess what’s down in the basement?  “Hey, wanna see ’em?” Frank asks.

Incidentally, just in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation,  let this be a lesson to you: the correct answer to this question is always, ALWAYS, “HELL NO.”

But, Freddy doesn’t have the benefit of hindsight like we do, so he agrees to go check out the bodies.  “See?  Here they are!  No worries, though — they’re safely entombed in these big metal coffins,” Frank says, rapping on one to prove it’s durability.  Only, whoopsie!  Frank has forgotten that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron, and the tank immediately ruptures under his knuckles, releasing a cloud of gas into the room.

Freddy and Frank immediately pass out, and faster than you can say “Gimmie brains!” the previously shriveled and unmoving dead are now the reanimated and cranky UNdead.  Here we go, folks!

Meanwhile, as all this is going down, Freddy’s punk rocker buddies are throwing a party in a local graveyard, killing time until Freddy gets off shift.  In a subtle application of the literary concept of “foreshadowing,” one of the girls, named Trash, strips naked and declares loudly that the worst way she could imagine to die would be for a bunch of old men to rip off her clothes — LIKE THIS! — and then eat her alive.

Because this is an 80’s movie, Trash then proceeds to dance around completely naked for a ridiculously gratuitous amount of time.  But don’t get too excited — when we finally get the fully-frontal shot, she rather oddly appears to have completely nonexistant nether regions, kinda like Barbie’s.  Must be really hard for her to pee, come to think of it. . .  Of course, since we now know she’ll be a old-man-zombie snack soon, there’s no point in pondering that one for long.

Back at the medical supply company, our two geniuses Frank and Freddy have called in colleague Burt, because, as my favorite Demotivator says, “None of us is as dumb as ALL of us!”  Frank and Freddy have managed to lock a zombie in a room and when Burt hears it pounding and growling and moaning, he says, “Hey, this guy’s screaming his head off — are you sure he’s DEAD?”  The group rather brilliantly decides to open the door and check, with plans to have Frank, the movie expert (“In that movie, they destroyed their brains to kill them!”), chop off its head if it really is a zombie.

Which, of course, it is.

Unfortunately, as Frank later expresses with a great degree of frustration,  while a now-headless zombie continues to stomp around the room, “THE MOVIE LIED!”

FYI: I had to pause here to get control of my hysterical laughter before it made me get the hiccups.  I hate the hiccups!

Anyway, our Crack Zombie Death Squad decides their only option is to chop the rest of the zombie dude into little pieces, bag ’em up, and carry them across the street to the mortuary, where a friend, Ernie the Embalmer, can cremate them.  Only, darned if Ernie doesn’t want to SEE what’s in the bags, unconvinced, as he is, that they contain what Frank says they do.

To wit:  “rabid weasels.”

Incidentally, I paused here again, but this time it was so I could add “rabid weasels” to the list of things I might one day want to get tattooed on my body.

And you know what the best part is?  After ALL THIS, we’re still only, like, thirty minutes into this movie.  Eventually, Frank and Freddy, exposed as they were to the 254 Trioxin, become zombies themselves (“Are you saying we’re dead?” “Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. . .”), the punk buddies all arrive to pick up Freddy and find themselves in the middle of, like, a ZOMBIE movie or something, a zombie outside uses an ambulance’s CB to radio for more paramedic brains to eat, and an undead woman reveals once and for all “how eating brains makes [her] FEEL.”

It’s an explosion of bad 80’s hair, even worse 80’s techno music, extremely hilarious dialogue, and a whole HECK of a lotta rabid weasels, my friends.  In short, it’s undead awesomeness on a stick.  And holy hell,  there are two, count ’em TWO, sequels!  How on earth did I ever miss those?  I’ll be getting on that one, STAT.

If you’re looking for just one ridiculously funny movie to watch this Halloween season and you have never seen this one (or, you’ve seen it but it’s been a while), use your braaaaaaaains and hie thee to the video store for The Return of the Living Dead.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Horror, Zombies
Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Matthews

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8 Responses to “MOVIE: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)”

  1. Lizzie Says:

    Is this the one where they throw brains out the back of a truck as bait for the zombies? Also, I seem to remember a bit where they’re trying to electrocute the zombies, and in the middle of a whole bunch of zombies jerking around, you see a guy in a red jumpsuit who looks like Michael Jackson in “Thriller.” Hysterical! I love funny zombie movies, but I sometimes wish more of them would be truly scary.

  2. megwood Says:

    Nope — I think the movie you are thinking of is actually the sequel to this one (the Thriller thing is in part II, anyway). Looking forward to seeing it! Probably some time next week.

  3. Melinda Says:

    Oh my goodness, I may have to drag someone over to watch this with me (see previous notes involving pansy-ness), but it sounds so ridiculously funny (I totally know the “rabid weasels” line!) that I think I will definitely need to watch it!

  4. Trip Says:

    Paging Jonathan Coulton…

    Just saw him live tonight and got to sing along with a crowd of about 200…

    “All weeee wanna dooooooo is eat your brains!”

    We’re not unreasonable…I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes….

  5. Ellen Says:

    Graham throroughly approves of your review, darlin’!

  6. megwood Says:

    Well, now I KNOW it was right-on — approved by the zombie movie expert (and star!!) himself! 🙂

  7. Janet Says:

    I remember this one! It has two of my favorite movie lines ever:
    “Send more cops… send more paramedics” and
    “If you loved me, you’d let me eat your brain!”

    Hubby and I still quote those at each other regularly, especially the second one.

  8. megwood Says:

    Awesome, Janet! The “If you loved me” line is a favorite of ours as well! 🙂

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