4 stars

Return of the Living Dead Blu-ray Review


<div style="float:left">
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-9764823118029583";
/* 125x125, created 12/10/07 */
google_ad_slot = "8167036710";
google_ad_width = 125;
google_ad_height = 125;
<script type="text/javascript"

Operating as neither a sequel to or a part of George A. Romero’s Zombie series, The Return of the Living Dead doesn’t really profess to be much of anything…except a hell of a lot of gory fun.  That doesn’t mean Night of the Living Dead isn’t referenced because it is.  Nor does it make the idea of zombies circa 1985 any less interesting.  Yet, where this film earns its wings is in how it treats the subject of zombies…with buckets of blood and humor.

When Freddy (Thom Matthews) starts a new job at a medical supply store, longtime employee Frank (James Karen) decides to show him one of the company’s secrets: a corpse tucked inside a military “tomb”.  The two employees accidentally release a toxic gas that reanimates the dead.  Fortunately, the reanimated bodies are self-contained in the supply story…or so they think.  First, there’s a dissected dog to deal with.  Then, there are the cadavers who, one by one, come back to life.  Quickly enough, the two – alongside a gang of punks and mods – discover that the ENTIRE cemetery next to the supply store has also been reanimated as a result of their little accident.

And so the madness begins.

Filled with enough blood and full frontal nudity – courtesy of the living (scream queen Linnea Barbara Quigley) and the reanimated dead – The Return of the Living Dead humorously plays with the ideas Romero first presented his audience with and then turns each and every one of them on their collective head until the final product is more 80’s comedy with just a hint of cheesy horror.

Written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (of Star Wars, Alien, Heavy Metal and Blue Thunder fame), the narrative works as it delves into the connectivity of close quarter mayhem that the Medicine Supply Store workers - now including Clu Gulager and Don Calfa - unknowingly wreak upon the “inhabitants” of the graveyard by burning the first zombie body.  As the exposed men start to turn into flesh-eating creepy crawlers, everyone’s best guess is poison.  Yet, when the rain begins to fall on the punks and mods in the graveyard and their skin begins to burn, it’s only a matter of time before the wild skinsations of becoming the undead are manifest to all.

Still, the first attack is the best, with a warning to “watch the third step” on a creaky basement staircase foreshadowing Tina (Beverly Randolph) and Spider’s (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) entrapment in the supply store.  With the mantra of “Brains!” and “More Brains!” on the tongues of each and every zombie, The Return of the Living Dead chomps its way into action with a comedic force – full of obvious and self-parodying dialogue.

The dead “don’t move around and talk” and, yet, in The Return of the Living Dead they do both.  Even scary-looking children, too.  They might even dance a bit, too.  When 45 Grave’s glorious “Partytime” kicks in and the dead crawl from their slimy graves in the cemetery on a path to devour the living, you can’t help but grin at the spooky flesh-eating that is about to be inflicted against the soundwaves of some gnarly 1980’s punk.  It’s no wonder then that this film has spawned four sequels with a possibly sixth still on its way.

The Return of the Living Dead may not a good film in the sense of Oscar-winning material, but it is a campy and memorable cult classic of melodious monster guts and 40-year-old funk.  Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the film is now available on Blu-ray.

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
4 stars
4 stars
Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 14, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
DTS-HD 5.1 MA & Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; DVD

This is decent – not stellar - 1080p transfer using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio of its original release.   The tones are natural and amped up on saturation and dark tones.  Since this is primarily set at night, the dark tones are important and with this release they are dark and natural; effective in creating a sense of disturbing moodiness.  The Blu-ray is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 lossless Master Audio and contains a good mix of levels for multiple channels requiring no tweaking from its audience in order for dialogue to be heard.


Audio Commentary:

  • Feature-length audio commentary with Cast, Crew and Undead - fairly informative, lots of laughing at their own youthful bravado, but fun nonetheless
  • Feature-length audio Commentary with Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout - more informative than the first commentary, this goes more in-depth with the overall design of the film
  • In Their Own Words – The Zombies Speak


  • The Decade of Darkness (23 mins): this feature takes a look back on the horror films that came from the 1980’s
  • The Return of the Living Dead – The Dead Have Risen (20 mins): a “Making Of” that includes interviews with the writer/director Dan O’Bannon and cast members
  • Designing the Dead (13 mins): this featurette contains interviews with writer/director O’Bannon and production designer William Stout concerning the “look” of the zombies


  • Bloody Version (1:08 – SD)
  • Theatrical Trailer: Even Bloodier Version (2:44 – SD)

A DVD version of the film is also included in this “combo“-style release.