Wednesday, October 31, 2007

DVD Review - The Return of the Living Dead: Collector's Edition (****)

In the long and storied lineage of the Zombie film, there are a handful of films that really stick out as landmarks of the genre, and Dan O'Bannon's 1985 splatter-fest The Return of the Living Dead is without a doubt one of the shining examples of just what a horror/comedy can accomplish. Just looking at the George Romero-referencing title, you can tell what O'Bannon was shooting for, and he scored a direct hit with this schlocky combination of punk rock teenagers and the undead, taking elements of Romero's Dead Trilogy and adding a number of new twists, including the debut of quick moving zombies who have the ability to speak. Also, these Zombies are slightly harder to do away with than the typical bullet-in-the-head, which leads to some inventive kills in the process. This in no way meant to label the film as being the slightest bit scary however, because it is not. What it is though is one of the funniest movies of the 1980s, bursting it's slim 90 minute frame with loads of gratuitous nudity, over-the-top blood shed and hilariously cheeky dialogue. If you've seen the Robert Rodriguez directed half of Grindhouse, it shouldn't be too hard to spot the similarities. It's also one of the very few Zombie films where the actual Zombies are just as memorable as the main characters, with a number of unique twists put on the living dead and their personalities (my favorite being Linnea Quigley's pervasively naked grave dancer).

This new Collector's Edition of the film is a welcome one, as the original DVD was bereft of features. Here we get a two great documentaries, one on the making of the film and one on the rise of the 80s horror film. There is also an entertaining audio commentary that unfortunately gets bogged down in it's own concept when the participants (members of the cast and crew) invite their zombie cast members to help elaborate on certain scenes. The packaging of the DVD is also noteworthy, as the limited edition slipcase is glow-the-dark. The only setback here is that the film still doesn't have all the correct music cues, with certain songs being trimmed and edited, with one in particular - The Damned's "Dead Beat Dance"- being completely excised. It probably has to do with rights issues, and truth be told it doesn't really detract from what is still one of the very best Zombie films ever made.

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