Living Dead Return

The Return of the Living Dead


The Return of the Living Dead

Theatrical poster
Directed by Dan O’Bannon
Produced by Tom Fox
Graham Henderson
Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon
Story by Rudy Ricci
John A. Russo
Russell Streiner
Starring Clu Gulager
James Karen
Don Calfa
Music by Matt Clifford
Francis Haines
Cinematography Jules Brenner
Editing by Robert Gordon
Distributed by Orion Pictures Corporation
Release date(s)
  • August 16, 1985
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million
Box office $14,237,880 (USA)

The Return of the Living Dead is a 1985 American comedy/horror film written and directed by Dan O’Bannon and starring Clu Gulager, James Karen and Don Calfa.[1]

The film tells the story of how three men accompanied by a group of teenage punks deal with the accidental release of a horde of brain hungry zombies onto an unsuspecting town. The film is known for introducing the popular concept of zombies eating brains, as opposed to just eating human flesh, like previous zombie iterations, as well as its soundtrack, which features several noted deathrock and punk rock bands of the era. The film was a critical success and performed moderately well at the box office. It later spawned four sequels.


On July 3, 1984 at 5:30PM EDT, at the Uneeda medical supply warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky, a foreman named Frank tries to impress the company’s newest employee, Freddy, by showing him military drums that accidentally wound up in the basement of the building. Containing the remains of an army experiment gone wrong that inspired the film Night of the Living Dead, Frank accidentally unleashes the toxic gas inside the barrel. Frank and Freddy discover that the body inside of the tank has disappeared, believing it to have probably melted. The gas reanimates a corpse inside a meat locker, forcing Frank and Freddy to call upon their boss and warehouse owner Burt Wilson to help them deal with the situation. When the three fail to kill the walking cadaver by damaging its brain and decapitating it, Burt decides to bring the zombie to the nearby mortuary to have its dismembered parts burned in a gambit to destroy it once and for all.

Meanwhile, Freddy’s friends learn of his new job from Tina, his girlfriend. The group, consisting of Spider, Trash, Chuck, Casey, and Scuz, decide to pick Freddy up after he finishes his shift. Arriving two hours before Freddy leaves his job, the group, along with Suicide, their driver, go inside the nearby graveyard to wait for him to finish. Tina leaves the cemetery and enters the warehouse when the hours pass to find her boyfriend, not knowing he left for the mortuary. Her search brings her to the basement, where he is still nowhere to be found. Just as she is about to leave, she is suddenly ambushed by the zombie from the tank, who was initially thought to have dissolved. After a failed attempt to run away, she manages to lock herself inside a closet to prevent it from getting to her, but the zombie finds a chain and winch and tries to pull the door off.

At the mortuary, Burt has Ernie, the mortician, burn the zombie in his retort until nothing remains. Unknown to them, this causes the deadly gas to contaminate the air and bring forth a toxic rainfall. The burning rain forces Freddy’s friends to return to Suicide’s convertible, but when the car fails to start and the roof begins to leak, they take refuge in the warehouse. Inside, they hear Tina’s crying and they rescue her from the zombie and barricade the basement door, though Suicide is killed during the rescue attempt. Because Casey witnessed Freddy entering the mortuary, the group makes a run through the cemetery to find Freddy. Inside the graveyard, they discover the dead rising from their graves. The shock of this sight results in the group getting split up. Only Spider, Tina, and Scuz make it to the mortuary, while Trash is killed by zombies, ironically fulfilling what she said would be the worst way for her to die. Chuck and Casey flee back to the warehouse.

Frank and Freddy have grown increasingly ill from their exposure to the gas and a medical test from paramedics implies that they are no longer alive. When Burt and Ernie learn of the dead rising from their graves, they quickly barricade the mortuary after Ernie is attacked and chased back to his building when he tries to use an ambulance to escape. Scuz is killed while protecting the barricade and the zombies eat the paramedics and police who arrive at the mortuary. With Frank and Freddy showing signs of becoming zombies themselves, Burt has them locked in the chapel. Tina, however, refuses to abandon Freddy and allows herself to be locked in with him.

Freddy soon attempts to eat Tina, but is stopped by Burt, Ernie, and Spider. In the ensuing struggle, Ernie manages to blind Freddy with acid and lock him back up. Frank manages to escape during the chaos, and, still having control over his mind, commits suicide by self-immolation in the retort. While Freddy breaks through the door holding him, Burt sees a police car outside with the motor still running. Along with Spider, he manages to get inside the car, but the large number of zombies forces him to abandon Ernie and Tina. Ernie brings Tina and himself up to his attic, while the blinded Freddy attempts to break in.

Burt crashes the police car outside of the warehouse, and an explosion caused by a gasoline leak destroys the remaining cars outside. Burt and Spider manage to get back inside the warehouse where they find Casey and Chuck. After incapacitating Tarman by decapitating him, the survivors enter the basement, where the building’s phone is located. With the police being massacred by the zombies, Burt decides to call the number on the military drums. The call goes to Colonel Glover, an Army officer looking for the barrels. When Glover learns that “the Easter eggs have hatched,” he activates a containment protocol that results in the destruction of 20 square blocks of Louisville by a nuclear artillery shell. The film ends with footage of the disaster area, along with a voiceover from Glover describing the outcome as optimal (“less than 4000 dead”) while dismissing the new reports of skin irritation by saying “the rains should wash everything away” in time for the President‘s impending visit to the area.


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