What came before it: Night of the Living Dead. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t Dawn of the Dead the sequel to Night of the Living Dead? Technically, yes. But that was George A. Romero’s sequel. This is a darkly comedic adaptation of Night co-writer John Russo’s completely separate, novel follow-up.
What remains: Just a leftover bin of zombie bodies from Night of the Living Dead. Return of the Living Dead reanimates the late guys and gals that come after the punk rock protagonists of this flick.
Why it deserves a second (and third, and fourth) chance:
- It is the reason “Braaaaaains!” has become the official zombie manifesto. It was the first movie to have the walking dead chow down on grey matter and utter the now famous phrase.
- It’s highly self-aware, name dropping Night of the Living Dead right off the bat.
- Unlike some of the Romero sequels, it’s really quite funny, intentionally and unintentionally (those costumes!).
- The soundtrack is stellar, featuring an hot mess of pop-punk tracks that take the B plot to a whole other out-of-control level.
- There is a wicked cemetery party scene in which one of the spiky-haired hipsters inexplicably strips down to her skivvies and dances atop a tomb. Talk about raising the dead! (Eww. I just wrote that.)
- There are characters named Spider, Trash, Scuz, Suicide and Tarman. Oh, and two characters named Burt and Ernie (no relation to the ones on Sesame Street).
- It was written and directed by Dan O’Bannon, scribe of Alien and the original Total Recall.
- The zombie puppet stuff was done by a former Muppeteer.