THE REWATCH: Return of the Living Dead (1985)
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is a cult treasure that should be cherished for all time!!! Even though it's over 30 years old, it still has the sort of balls-to-the-wall energy that makes it fun to watch again and again.
The gist of the story is this: Callow youth FREDDY starts his first day on the job at a medical supply warehouse. His coworker, FRANK shows him the ropes ("Now let's check out the skeletons from India, split dogs, and cadavers in deep freeze!") and entices him with a gruesome tale about a military experiment gone wrong. Apparently, years ago, the government dropped off a bunch of canisters filled with the resulting corpses from that experiment, and they're still being stored in the basement. Freddy, being young and stupid and possibly on coke, is totally down to check these out, and Frank, clearly experiencing a mid-life crisis, is eager to show them off.
Of course, things go wrong almost immediately as one of the canisters is ruptured, and Freddy and Frank get blasted with a mysterious poison gas. Naturally, this same gas reanimates every dead thing within a 1-mile radius. Did I mention there's a crowded cemetery next door to the warehouse?
And let's not forget about the incredibly cheesy, but oh-so-80s inclusion of a gang of punks, new wavers, and preppies who come to collect their best buddy Freddy and decide to hang out in the graveyard. They have names like Spider, Scuz, Trash, Suicide... and Tina, Chuck and Casey! Neat! It's pretty fun watching them all get attacked by zombies.
THE REWATCH EFFECT:
I saw Return of the Living Dead for the first time 13 years ago, so I've matured quite a bit in the intervening years. After a solid re-watch, here's what I picked up on:
The well-meaning (but still ill-fated) decisions are made by the adult crew members at the warehouse, and the just plain stupid decisions are made by the kids. I buy that.
I noticed that the filmmakers reused a lot of the same footage over and over. They had a low budget, I get that, but it's plainly obvious that when (*SPOILER ALERT*) the zombie-fying starts over again at the end of the movie, we're just seeing the same footage from earlier. They could've tried something else. Ed-Wood it out, and use some stock footage?
Were Trash and Suicide a couple? If so, fantastic. Also, I'm sure this was a wink at the audience, but why was Suicide so neurotic and self-conscious? That's not very punk rock, man! NO FUTURE.
I'd love to know how Scuz, Spider, Trash, Chuck, Freddy, Tina, Casey and Suicide met. Were they roommates? Dive bar regulars? Was Chuck Tina's cousin? I just want to know why they even hang out. They all seem to hate each other.
Even if Frank had survived, his boss Burt (played by Clu Gulager!) would've definitely fired his ass. Bad judgment all around.