[Review] Brains! The Return of the Living Dead

Director: Dan O’Bannon | Writers: Rudy Ricci (story), John A. Russo (story), Russell Streiner (story), an Dan O’Bannon (screenplay) | Released: 16 August 1985 | Run Time: 1hr 31min

Return of the Living Dead is one of those popular 80s horror movies that’s so bad it’s kind of good. The premise is intriguing enough, but the director and cast never quite pulled it off. It was hard for me to suspend my disbelief with the military shipping the living dead in oil barrels to the wrong location. Why didn’t the military put shipping labels on the barrels? Who did the military get to ship the barrels? I question their gross negligence in the film.

The film is set in St. Louis, Missouri, but you wouldn’t know it if the film didn’t tell you. We don’t get to see an identifiable landmark that associates the film with St. Louis until the end. But even then, it’s a cut scene and you only get a glimpse.

The story follows two warehouse workers who release a deadly gas from the oil barrel into the air. It fills the warehouse, making them cough. The zombie escapes and the two workers lock it in the basement. They contemplate calling the police and military, but they decide not because they don’t want to get in trouble and lose their jobs. So, they do what they think is the next best thing and call their boss.

A local group of teens are waiting on their friend to get off work from the warehouse. So, to kill time the group hangs out in the nearby cemetery. The teens play clique characters. As they’re chilling amongst the tombstones, one of the ladies strips down and dances on someone’s grave. She contemplates death, which apparently turns her on.

The guys from the warehouse decide they need to get rid of the zombie by incinerating the corpse at the funeral home. The two employees start turning into zombies themselves, but it’s a slow drawn out process. The two actors still the show with their humor. While the zombie burned, the deadly gas escaped out the chimney, settling over the cemetery, infecting the teens and the dead alike. The people in the funeral home must survive the two zombies inside and the hoard of zombies outside. The zombies are hungry for brains, and they’ll stop at nothing to satisfy their cravings.

The story was decent for the most part, nothing spectacular. The acting was hit and miss. You can tell when the dialogue is smooth and when it’s choppy. It’s all about timing and flow, which The Return of the Living Dead was lacking. The special effects are dated, but they’re still cool to see. I couldn’t tell if the film was set in a post-zombie apocalypse or in the midst of one. Either way, The Return of the Living Dead ends with a bang. The ending didn’t pay off, though. It was too quick and convenient. I think the director was going for shock value. Maybe it worked for fans during the Cold War, but it didn’t work for me. The Return of the Living Dead was made for one thing and one thing only, and that’s to deliver the fun. It delivers all the gory fun.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

When two bumbling employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to rise again as zombies.

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