Also known as: The Offspring (original title) Release Date: May 13th, 1987 (Cannes) Directed by: Jeff Burr Written by: C. Courtney Joyner, Darin Scott, Jeff Burr, Mike Malone Music by: Jim Manzie Cast: Vincent Price, Susan Tyrrell, Clu Gulager, Terry Kiser, Harry Caesar, Rosalind Cash, Cameron Mitchell, Martine Beswick, Lawrence Tierney
“One thing I’ve learned, my dear, is that one is never too old for nightmares.” – Julian White
I’ve stated in the past that I’m not a big fan of anthology horror movies. However, as I’ve reviewed more and more over the almost five years that this website has existed, they’ve kind of won me over.
Sure, many are bad and most are inconsistent from segment-to-segment. However, even if something doesn’t hit the right way, it’s over pretty quickly and the viewer gets to move on to the next chapter.
With From A Whisper To A Scream, we get an anthology picture where every chapter was pretty decent. Plus, the story that connects everything together stars horror legend Vincent Price in his last true horror role.
I don’t know if Price would’ve been a fan of the level of gore in this movie but it’s pretty standard for an ’80s horror flick that’s going for the jugular. I don’t think it’s overly gratuitous and it’s fine for the style but it’s definitely edgier and bloodier than the film’s one would typically associate Price with.
Each story was interesting and pretty creative. Unlike Creepshow, the Twilight Zone movie, Tales From the Darkside and the Tales From the Crypt TV show, this didn’t have source material to pull from and adapt. Still, the situations were cool and unique and frankly, pretty f’n bonkers.
From A Whisper To A Scream was enjoyable from top-to-bottom. For me, that’s rare in an anthology horror picture.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other horror anthologies of the ’70s and ’80s.
Release Date: October 30th, 1987 Directed by: Jack Sholder Written by: Bob Hunt Music by: Michael Convertino Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Richard Brooks, Claudia Christian, Chris Mulkey, William Boyett, Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross, Danny Trejo, Lin Shaye, Robert Shaye (uncredited)
Heron Communications, Mega Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 97 Minutes
“No one deserves to die like that. I don’t care what the man’s done.” – Doctor, “He killed twelve people, wounded twenty three more, stole six cars, most of them Ferraris. Robbed eight banks, six supermarkets, four jewelery stores and a candy shop. Six of the ones he killed he carved up with a butcher knife. Two of them were kids. He did all that in two weeks. If anyone deserves to go that way, it sure in the hell was him.” – Det. Cliff Willis
I recently found out about this movie, which kind of sucks, as I was robbed of its greatness, as a kid. I would’ve loved the hell out of this movie back then but it’s also kind of cool discovering it 33 years later and seeing it for the first time.
One thing that immediately struck me about the plot is that it’s essentially the same idea that was used in that ’90s Denzel Washington film Fallen. In that film, Denzel fights a demon serial killer that changes bodies. In this film, it’s an alien and he isn’t so much a serial killer as he is just an asshole that takes what he wants and kills those in his way, sometimes just for fun. Regardless, it seems like Fallen stole this movie’s concept.
That being said, I like this a lot more than Fallen and it has similar vibes to They Live, I Come In Peace and even the comedy zombie movie Dead Heat. Other than They Live, this movie is better than those others. I’d also say that it’s pretty close in quality to They Live and frankly, this should probably be held in much higher regard than it is.
Watching this, I also have to wonder if it was a favorite movie of David Lynch. It stars Kyle MacLachlan, as an FBI agent, which he would be most famous for playing again in Lynch’s Twin Peaks, just a few years later. Additionally, Lynch tapped into the cast of this film for other roles in Twin Peaks. Plus, Michael Nouri’s role in this film plays like it was used as a template for Miguel Ferrer’s character in Twin Peaks. Additionally, seeing MacLachlan play an agent in this makes it hard not to draw allusions to his role as Cooper in Twin Peaks. However, in this film, there’s a twist where you discover that he’s not exactly who he appears to be. Granted, I figured out that twist pretty damn quickly.
I really liked the story in this film, its progression, the constantly changing villain (especially, when it was Claudia Christian) and the big finale that starts with a violent shootout in the police station’s jail.
More than anything, I loved the practical special effects. Especially, in regards to the alien creature, whose first appearance was kind of shocking and terrifying. I can’t imagine how it caught people off guard in the theater who saw this on a whim, not knowing until that exact moment that this was a sci-fi/horror picture and not just some B-movie action flick.
The Hidden is an underrated gem. I dug the hell out of it and will probably watch it again in the near future. It features one of my favorite Kyle MacLachlan performances of all-time and he’s an actor that’s been a favorite of mine for years.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with:They Live, Fallen, Dead Heat, I Come In Peace and Alien Nation all immediately come to mind.
Release Date: February 22nd, 1985 Directed by: John Landis Written by: Ron Koslow Music by: Ira Newborn Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Richard Farnsworth, Irene Papas, Kathryn Harrold, Dan Aykroyd, Bruce McGill, David Bowie, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Art Evans, John Hostetter, Jack Arnold, Rick Baker, Paul Bartel, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Demme, Amy Heckerling, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Mazursky, Carl Perkins, Dedee Pfeiffer, Don Siegel, Jake Steinfeld, Roger Vadim
Universal Pictures, 115 Minutes
“[to Diana] I need you to appease Shaheen. She will demand blood; yours will do.” – Monsieur Melville
After recently watching Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, I couldn’t help but want to revisit a similar film from the same year by John Landis.
However, after revisiting this, it’s not all that similar other than it’s a “yuppie in peril” story. Also, the girl makes it to the end of this film and it’s more of an actual love story while also being more lighthearted and action heavy. The two films certainly have some parallels but this one is more accessible and probably more fun for most filmgoers.
Personally, I don’t like this as much as After Hours but it’s still a movie that I enjoy quite a bit.
It’s hard not to enjoy a film with Jeff Goldblum and Michele Pfeiffer as its stars, though. Both of them are great in this and I liked their chemistry and kind of wished they were paired up in more movies.
Beyond the two leads, we have a film full of lots of great talent, as well as more than a dozen cameos with other filmmakers and behind the camera legends in small, bit parts. Hell, even this film’s director, John Landis, plays a roll throughout the film as one of the four thugs in pursuit of the main characters.
I really liked David Bowie in this, though. He steals the scenes he’s in and it made me wish that his role was bigger.
The story sees a man, after catching his wife cheating, stumble upon a woman running away from some dudes with guns in an airport parking garage. They speed off together and we’re sent on an action adventure romp through Los Angeles, as they try to figure out how to get her out of trouble and survive all the trouble that’s coming for them.
There are so many great characters in this and every sequence in the film is pretty damn memorable because of that.
It’s strange to me that this isn’t considered one of Landis’ top films but it was also the first film of his to come out after the tragedy that happened on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. I think that because of that, this wasn’t promoted as well as it should have been and the public already had a bad taste in their mouths and probably, rightfully so.
However, looking at this as its own thing, separate from the grim reality of an unrelated picture, this is a solid comedy that did just about everything right.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with:After Hours and other “yuppie in peril” movies.
Release Date: April 5th, 2019 (Cleveland International Film Festival) Directed by: Roman Chimienti, Tyler Jensen Written by: Michael Beard, Clint Catalyst, Leo Herrera, Justin Lockwood Music by: Alexander Taylor Cast: Mark Patton, Robert Englund, Jack Sholder, David Chaskin, Robert Rusler, Marshall Bell, Kim Myers, Clu Gulager, JoAnn Willette, Linnea Quigley
The End Productions, 99 Minutes
I was pretty excited to check this out when I first saw the trailer pop up. I’m a big fan of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise and I was probably one of the few that actually liked the second movie, before everyone else figured out how “gay” it was.
Granted, I kind of saw the film’s gay subtext for myself and despite this documentary claiming that the gay innuendo was widely known when this came out, I don’t recall many people talking about it until the late ’90s or so. Then again, I was also a young kid and didn’t reach my teen years until the ’90s, so maybe my peers were a bit behind in picking up on the cues.
Anyway, I actually thought that this was just sort of meh. I wouldn’t call this documentary a disappointment but it just didn’t live up to the hype around it and to my own excitement after first hearing about it.
I guess the thing I liked most about it was that I finally got to see what became of Mark Patton, who sort of fell off the face of the Earth for a long time because of what he perceived as backlash from this picture and because he felt that it somewhat exposed him as being gay in a time when there was still a lot of misinformation and fear of AIDS, as well as a lot of homophobia in mainstream Hollywood.
Most importantly, this really goes into Patton’s personal life, showing the viewer what hardships he went through during and after this film. I don’t want to give too much away, as this is worth watching for those who also love the Elm Street movies.
It was also cool seeing the cast of the second Elm Street movie finally reunite after all these years. It’s obvious that Patton’s cast mates cared for him and had missed him during his self-imposed exile from the business.
Overall, this was a decent piece on the man and his life but I wish it would’ve gotten more into the movie itself and actually tried to show it more as a somewhat beloved film by a small minority of Elm Street fans. It was the most bizarre and weird of the Elm Street pictures and that’s without looking at the subliminal homophobia that was written into the script.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other recent horror movie documentaries.
Also known as: Untitled #9, #9 (working titles) Release Date: May 21st, 2019 (Cannes) Directed by: Quentin Tarantino Written by: Quentin Tarantino Music by: various Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Julia Butters, Mike Moh, Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Samantha Robinson, Rafal Zawierucha, Damon Herriman, Lena Dunham, Maya Hawke, Harley Quinn Smith, Danielle Harris, Scoot McNairy, Clifton Collins Jr., Dreama Walker, Clu Gulager, Martin Kove, Rebecca Gayheart, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Michael Madsen, James Remar, Toni Basil, Quentin Tarantino (voice), Vincent Laresca, Lew Temple, James Marsden (extended release), Walton Goggins (voice, extended release)
Visiona Romantica, Heyday Films, Bona Fide Group, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, 161 Minutes
“When you come to the end of the line, with a buddy who is more than a brother and a little less than a wife, getting blind drunk together is really the only way to say farewell.” – Narrator
It’s probably no secret that I really loved Quentin Tarantino’s earlier films.
However, his more recent stuff hasn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way. I think a lot of that has to do with his reliance on his dialogue and his films coming across as a handful (or less) of long conversations with a bit of cool shit sprinkled in and an overabundance of ultraviolence that isn’t as effective as it once was and often times feels out of place and jarring.
That being said, I really fucking dug Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.
It’s not a picture without its flaws but it’s well constructed, well written and perfectly paced, which isn’t something I can say for the rest of Tarantino’s more modern pictures.
I haven’t liked a Tarantino movie this much since the Kill Bill films.
I’m not sure what changed in the way that he paces and constructs his movies but this plays much more like Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown and that’s a very, very good thing.
A lot of credit has to go to the massive cast, all of whom felt perfect in their roles. It was really cool to see Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play best buds and sort of go on this adventure together. Their characters were an homage to Burt Reynolds and his stuntman, Hal Needham, who were really close and had a tight bond for years.
DiCaprio’s character was also based off of all the television western actors who were once big stars but never seemed to be able to move on to bigger projects and sort of got typecast and brushed aside.
The third main character in the film is Margot Robbie, who plays a fictionalized version of Sharon Tate, the most famous victim in the Charles Manson murders.
However, like Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, this film doesn’t follow history’s path and it carves out its own unique story. But I’ve always really loved alternative history takes in fiction. Hell, The Man In the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is one of my all-time favorite novels. I still haven’t watched the television show, though.
Anyway, the film does run long but it’s not as exhausting as The Hateful Eight. We’re not trapped in one room for three hours, here. Instead, we get to explore old-timey Hollywood in an era where it was leaving its glamorous age behind and moving into the darker, grittier, post-Code era.
There are some scenes, while pretty cool, that probably didn’t need to be in the film and don’t serve much purpose other than amusing the director.
One such scene is the fight between Bruce Lee and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it but it didn’t serve the story other than to show how cool and tough Booth was but by this point in the movie, we already knew that. It was also a way for Tarantino to wedge in a few more cameos, in this case: Zoe Bell and Kurt Russell, two of his faves.
The sequence that really cemented this film as being pretty solid was the one that took place at the ranch. Here, Brad Pitt’s Booth discovers that an old friend’s ranch has become infested with cultish hippies, who the audience comes to learn are associated with Charles Manson. It’s an absolutely chilling sequence that builds up suspense in a way that I haven’t seen Tarantino do since the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds, a decade prior.
The climax of the film is also well constructed and pretty fucking intense. This is the part of the film where history is altered and we get to see some epic Tarantino-styled justice befall the force of evil that has been brooding over the story for over two hours.
I probably should have seen this in the theater and I believe that it’s the only Tarantino picture that I haven’t seen on the big screen. However, his two previous films exhausted me and I assumed that this would do the same. But I’m glad to say that this seems like a return to form and I hope this momentum carries over into his future projects.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: other more modern Tarantino films.
Release Date: September 29th, 1970 Directed by: John Llewellyn Moxey Written by: William Read Woodfield, Allan Balter Music by: Patrick Williams Cast: Pernell Roberts, Clu Gulager, Beth Brickell, Van Johnson, David Hartman, Dana Elcar, Tab Hunter
Universal Television, 96 Minutes
“I said the wheel felt mushy!” – Ross Edwards
It’s been a really slow few weeks for me, as I’ve been on a sabbatical from work, life and all things that come with this site but I did squeeze in at least one movie over the last few weeks. But mainly because I was on a flight, the movie selection sucked and I felt like watching some Mystery Science Theater 3000 to make my overcrowded and testy flight more tolerable.
Granted, this is a terrible film and it has nothing to offer, apart for being bad enough to be riffing fodder.
Anyway, this isn’t really even a movie. It’s a two-hour pilot for a failed television show.
This stars a bunch of recognizable B-list actors from the era but they all look like they are dialing it in and care about this production as little as I do.
Ultimately, this is an ensemble piece with a bunch of subplots, none of which are interesting.
I wish I could actually say more about the film but it’s like nothing even happened in the slow and mind numbing 96 minutes that this took up. It certainly doesn’t build towards anything that anyone would care about and I guess that’s why this failed and a show never really developed beyond a few episodes that I don’t think even aired after this dud.
Rating: 2.75/10 Pairs well with: I guess other failed TV pilots of the ’70s and airplane disaster movies.
Also known as: The Master (as a TV series), The Ninja Master (original VHS movie release) Release Date: 1984 (the original run of the TV series) Directed by: various Written by: Tom Sawyer, Michael Sloan, Susan Woollen Music by: Bill Conti Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Timothy Van Patten, Sho Kosugi, Demi Moore, Claude Akins, Clu Gulager
Michael Sloan Productions, Viacom, CBS, 88 Minutes
“Don’t worry, I won’t leave this bar through the window.” – Max Keller
This isn’t really a movie but it was treated as such when it was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is actually just two episodes of the television show The Master edited into a feature length format and presented as a film to the VHS market circa 1984. The show bombed and only lasted thirteen episodes.
This film version of episoides 1 and 2 doesn’t have a good flow to it. Usually when episodes are diced up and made into “movies” like this, the result is always pretty piss poor.
The thing is, I vaguely remember seeing the show when I was a kid and I kind of liked it. I was five when this came out though and I probably didn’t actually see it till I was like seven or eight but I thought it was sort of cool for the time.
Really though, it’s not a good show by any stretch of the imagination. It works if you are into televised ’80s action cheese. It certainly isn’t horrible but it’s shoddily produced with glaring flaws but it’s got Lee Van Cleef and Sho Kosugi in it, so it’s overflowing in manliness points.
It’d be easy to hate on this, especially in this butchered up format but I’m someone that loves ’80s ninja shit and that’s exactly what this is, even if it’s highly diluted for general audiences. It’s no Revenge of the Ninja or American Ninja but it still firmly represents the ’80s ninja craze with gusto.
The stunts are pretty good in a lot of scenes though.
Rating: 4.75/10 Pairs well with:Master Ninja II and The Master TV series.
Release Date: December 7th, 1984 Directed by: Larry Stewart, Peter Crane (uncredited/fired) Written by: Charles Pratt Jr. Music by: Gabriel Black, Lance Ong Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Hunter Tylo
Georgian Bay Productions, Initiation Associates, New World Pictures, 97 Minutes
“Well, the nightmare ends with this stranger coming in and fighting with my father. And the strange man ends up catching on fire and burning to death. It’s always the same; the last image is of his whole body engulfed in flames.” – Kelly Fairchild, “That’s beautiful. You’ve got all the classic symbols there; mom, dad, fire, strange men…” – Peter
The Initiation was better film in my memory than it was revisiting it for the first time in a couple of decades. It’s one of those great midnight movies I loved watching as a kid in the ’80s and I sort of had a thing for Daphne Zuniga when I first saw her in Spaceballs, a few years after this came out.
The coolest thing about this movie is the setting in the second half. While this is really a typical slasher with some mystery and a twist, the plot is pretty pedestrian and the twist isn’t shocking in the least. Still, the finale is kind of neat and pretty fun.
The setting is supposed to be inside of a large department store but the script was written and the filmmakers couldn’t find a suitable department store in the Dallas area to shoot. So they actually shot this in the massive and tomb-like Dallas Market Center. It doesn’t look anything like a department store but it houses hundreds of showrooms for anything and everything you could possibly throw money away on. It’s also fifteen stories tall and looks like the interior of a modern pyramid hollowed out and adorned with all the flags in the world. The corridors look more like a corporate office building with windows full of consumer goods. It really is a strange and unique setting and I’ve always wanted to see this place in person. Sadly, it’s not open to the public.
The film’s plot surrounds a sorority. The pledges are forced to sneak into a department store after hours to steal a security guard’s uniform. Kelly’s (Zuniga) father has keys to the store so she takes them and plans on just stealing a uniform from the inventory of spare ones. The queen bitch of the sorority has her own plans and sneaks in with some frat bros to scare the pledges on their mission. Of course, there is a slasher on the loose and people get murdered.
I liked that Zuniga’s parents were played by veterans Vera Miles and Clu Gulager, as it added a sense of legitimacy to this canned slasher picture. Vera Miles did some strange movies in the ’80s and Gulager would do just about anything thrown his way, which is why I’ve always loved and respected the guy.
As an ’80s slasher picture, I’d say this is a hair bit above average but it isn’t anything special once you take away the unique location. It has a lot in common with The Dorm That Dripped Blood, which also had Zuniga in it. But college based slasher pictures were a dime a dozen circa 1984. In fact, it feels like there was probably a new slasher movie every week in the mid ’80s, as I never seem like I’ve run out of ones to watch and still discover new ones all the time. But it was the peak of the genre and this film was just capitalizing off of the trend.
I still really like The Initiation but it isn’t a film that I want to revisit too often, unless I’m having a marathon or trying to pair up a few movies for a get-together.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with:Chopping Mall, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Final Exam, The Mutilator, Graduation Day, The Prowler and Night School.
Release Date: January 23rd, 2015 (Sundance) Directed by: Sean Baker Written by: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch Music by: Matthew Smith (supervisor) Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, Alla Tumanian, James Ransone, Clu Gulager
Duplass Brothers Productions, Through Films, Magnolia Pictures, 88 Minutes
“Bitch, you know I don’t do downers, bitch. You know I’m an upper ho.” – Sin-Dee
I didn’t know much about Sean Baker until after I had experienced his most recent film and my favorite of 2017, The Florida Project. I read about some of his previous work and Tangerine was a film that was pretty highly regarded. I checked out the trailer and read about how it was made and I had to check it out for myself. I’m glad that I did.
For a film shot on a cell phone, it looks fantastic. Baker used three iPhone 5S smartphones to capture everything. He filmed while using an app called FiLMIC Pro, which helps to control focus, aperture and color temperature while capturing video at higher bit-rates than the iPhone’s standard. Baker also used an anamorphic adapter to capture video in a widescreen format. The smoothness of the shots were achieved by using Tiffen’s Steadicam Smoothee. This prevented the film from having that standard shaky-cam effect made famous by found footage movies. In post-production, Baker used Final Cut Pro for editing and Da Vinci Resolve to correct the contrast and color saturation of what he filmed.
The movie had a budget of $100,000 but due to what they saved on cameras and equipment, most of the budget went to businesses who allowed them to use their locations for the film, as well as to extras who were needed in certain scenes.
Tangerine is nearly fully populated by actors with very little to no experience and is made to feel genuine and authentic, as if you just stepped into these characters’ lives for a day. The only known actor in this film is Clu Gulager, who is in one scene as a taxicab customer.
The plot all happens in one day and on Christmas Eve. For the most part, the film focuses on Sin-Dee Rella, a transgender sex worker in Hollywood. She has just gotten out of prison and while sharing a doughnut with her best friend, another transgender sex worker named Alexandra, she learns that her pimp boyfriend cheated on her with a cisgender woman. Sin-Dee immediately loses her cool and goes off in search of this woman with just the knowledge that her name starts with “D”.
The film also showcases a day in the life of Armenian cab driver Razmik. He seems like a decent guy but as the plot unfolds, we learn that he’s into transgender prostitutes and that he also has a wife and a very small child at home. Eventually, Razmik’s story crosses over with Alexandra and eventually Sin-Dee’s story.
The last act of the film is a big crescendo where all these characters’ issues collide in the doughnut shop where it all started. This isn’t a film that’s really shooting for a positive outcome for anyone but is instead a real character study and just a small sample of these people’s lives.
Between this and The Florida Project, Sean Baker has really cemented himself as one of the best contemporary filmmakers that makes character study films. The fact that both of Baker’s films have been pretty much snubbed, in my opinion, by the Academy, except for Dafoe’s performance in The Florida Project, is pretty upsetting. This film, along with The Florida Project, should have had several nominations and both movies are better than many of the films that received Best Picture of the Year nominations for 2015 and 2017.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: Sean Baker’s more recent film, The Florida Project. Also goes good with Moonlight.
Release Date: August 16th, 1985 Directed by: Dan O’Bannon Written by: John Russo, Rudy Ricci, Russell Streiner, Dan O’Bannon Music by: Matt Clifford, Francis Haines Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Linnea Quigley
Hemdale Film Corporation, A Greenberg Brothers Partnership, Orion Pictures, 91 Minutes
“Listen, there’s a bunch of people from the cemetery who are stark, staring, mad, and they’ll kill you and eat you if they catch you. It’s like a disease. It’s like rabies, only faster, a lot faster. That’s why you’ve got to come and get us out of here now… right now!” – Burt Wilson
There are very few movies as awesome as The Return of the Living Dead. It is, hands down, the greatest zombie comedy ever put to celluloid… sorry, Shaun of the Dead. It is also balls to the wall insane from beginning to end while being full of punk teens, great older actors and the best zombie hoard in the history of motion pictures.
Like Dawn of the Dead, which was George A. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead, this film is also a sequel (in a way), as John A. Russo was the other half of the creative duo that gave birth to that original film back in 1968.
The Return of the Living Dead is an alternate continuity to Romero’s Living Dead universe, though. In fact, the original film is mentioned in this picture, as it is a movie that exists within this alternate timeline. However, the movie is referenced and casually dismissed as a Hollywood version of the “real story”. This film continues off of that original story, which is established in a conversation between two of the characters very early on.
The reason for the split continuities, is that Romero and Russo had creative differences over the property. Romero even went as far as to send Russo a cease and desist order over this film, which effected the marketing but ultimately, didn’t stop the film from being released and spawning its own sequels.
Romero purists will probably hate me for saying this but this is my favorite Living Dead film. It is also my favorite zombie picture. I wouldn’t say that it is the greatest, as far as overall artistry is concerned, but it is the one that I watch the most and have the largest amount of appreciation for. The film is just fucking cool and that is really an understatement.
Initially, Russo wrote a Return of the Living Dead novel and shopped it around Hollywood to be adapted. At one point, Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain SawMassacre 1 & 2, Poltergeist, The Funhouse) was slated to direct the film but that fell through. Ultimately, what we got was this, which is better than what the Hooper film probably would have been.
In this film, we quickly learn that zombies don’t die by destroying their brains. The zombies can be dismembered, have their heads knocked off and still keep coming. They’re essentially impossible to kill. At one point, they cremate a pile of animated zombie parts. However, the smoke from the crematorium goes up into the clouds, which rain onto the graveyard, reanimating the dead. There really isn’t an effective way to kill the zombies, which makes the threat in this film, infinitely worse. Not to mention the fact that they move with speed and want to eat human brains.
I know that they don’t give out Oscars for pictures like these but James Karen put on a performance that was legendary. He was a hilarious and useless doofus that accidentally set the zombie threat free. All he did from that point forward was freak out and whine but he did it with such believable gusto that it is impossible not to be captivated by his absurd character and to love the scenes that he’s in.
We also get Miguel A. Núñez Jr. in my favorite role that he ever played. He’s a punk rocker that kind of acts like a damsel in distress but it works. Linnea Quigley also shows up, gets butt naked and dances on a tomb because this is the kind of stuff she was best known for. It is also her most memorable role, in my opinion. Don Calfa, probably best known as the killer in Weekend At Bernie’s is the guy who works at the crematorium and he’s also fantastic in this. Clu Gulager is perfect as the no nonsense older alpha male lead; Thom Mathews, one of the Tommy Jarvises in the Friday the 13th film series, pulls his weight too.
This film, for what it is, is absolutely perfect, which is why I have to give it the highest score possible. I used to love watching this when it rotated in and out of Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision on TNT back in the 90s but nothing beats watching the unedited non-television version. How else are you going to see the beautiful gore and Ms. Quigley’s glorious breasties? Her bum is quite exceptional too, for the record.
The Return of the Living Dead could make a case for being the coolest movie of all-time. It probably isn’t for everyone but for kids who grew up watching horror in the 80s, this thing is a friggin’ masterpiece.
Plus, it features music from The Cramps, who were the most perfect band to feature in this film. It was tailor made for their tunes.