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A group of teenagers drive across town to a medical supplies warehouse to await the emergence of a friend. However, his shift is not over, so they decide to break-in to the old graveyard and mess around, blissfully unaware of what has taken place in the warehouse. Frank and his new assistant Freddy have unwittingly unleashed a military chemical which brings the dead back to like. A body which refuses to lie down is taken, in pieces, to the nearby crematorium where they are helped to burn the body. Chemical smoke bellows from the chimney, causing an acid rain which falls on the graveyard and reanimates all the corpses. The teenagers flee, joining forces with the three men, attempt to keep out the zombies on their quest to consume brains. But something has happened to Frank and Freddy...
Years after the classic monochrome The Night of the Living Dead, co-written by John A. Russo (in fact, mainly written by him, as George Romero wasn’t around much of the time), Russo scripted a sequel. The story was set ten years after the original, and incorporated only one character from the original: the sheriff. In my view, this would have been the better option for a follow-up (you might agree if you read the book). However, the film company decided to venture down the path of a black comedy. They brought in Dan O’Bannon (who worked on Dark Star with John Carpenter, and scripted the first Alien film) to work alongside Russo, and it was brought up to date (for the 1980s) by having a soundtrack which most notably included The Cramps.
The film has its moments, and it can probably make a claim to being the first proper humorous stab at the zombie sub-genre. But for me the humour doesn’t really work that well; it’s all a little silly rather than fun. It has the impression of a run-through rehearsal rather than the real thing. That’s not to say it doesn’t have merit in the scheme of things, just that Romero’s Dawn of the Dead which came out around the same time was an infinitely more superior film.
What is fantastic about this Blu-ray disc is the veritable plethora of extra features. The main reason why this review has taken so long to materialise is because I have very much been enjoying working my way through the five hours or so of very entertaining extras. More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead is a two-hour documentary on the film. The Origins of Return of the Living Dead features a revelatory interview with John A. Russo. The FX of the Living Dead concentrates on design and make-up. Then there is the final interview on the film by Dan O’Bannon. They Wont Stay Dead - a documentary on Return of the Living Dead Part 2. A Love Beyond the Grave - a documentary on Return of the Living Dead Part 3. Stacey Q Live: exclusive Tonight music video. Even More Brains - a deleted documentary interview. Return of the Living Dead in Three Minutes. Resurrected Settings: The Filming Locations Today.
Phew! Thank goodness for the special feature, which earn this release an extra couple of points.