Friday, September 30, 2011
Return Of The Living Dead!
When the movie Return of the Living Dead hit the theaters way back in the 80's I was distinctly not interested. That kind of movie did not appeal to me back then, and I have to say that while I've warmed to the zombie concept since, it's still not the my favorite horror genre by any stretch. I find the gore which dominates many of these productions not so much nauseating as dull.
That said, when I found a collection of movies (the same set that featured Swamp Thing) the other day and found this older zombie fest on it, I was not displeased. Dan O'Bannon was the director and as I discovered William Stout was the production designer. Both men were featured on the commentary track of this movie and did some interviews to support the effort. O'Bannon has since passed away but happily William Stout is still very much around. Here's a link to his website.
One bit of trivia that Stout mentions is that it was the cover to Alien Worlds above from Pacific Comics which got him this gig as designer. O'Bannon liked Stout's talent for drawing decayed zombies, but wondered if he could handle technology and the space suit showed him he could.
I found the movie not what I expected. It was a comedy, which helped immensely, and the connection to the classic zombie original Night of the Living Dead was cleverly done. I liked the fact the movie was stocked with solid veteran actors able to handle the shifts from fright to fun, but next to them unfortunately was a gang of younger actors less nimble.
By nimble, I don't mean lack of physical skills, but their range is and ability to do the subtle shifts required to keep the viewer in the story is less developed. Some of the kids do some great gags and one young lass spends nearly all of the movie mostly naked, her perky butt wiggling through several tromps across the rain-soaked screen.
The story is a hoot, and I must confess the relentless way the zombie threat slowly but surely develops is internally sensible and once unleashed it's clear the zombie threat will likely not abate. The ending isn't all that shocking nowadays, nor at the time of release I'd suspect. It does tie in nicely with the nihilistic finale of the original Romero flick, at least thematically.
Overall, I find I liked this movie more than I found things to cringe over. I don't feel lesser for having ignored it all these years, but it's nice to finally get a glimpse.