Daddy’s Little Monster returns. This time Ron introduces his horror savvy eleven-year-old daughter Emma to Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 naked punk rocker zombie epic The Return of the Living Dead.
To quote Sara Lee, “Some people don’t like some things, but nobody doesn’t like… brain-eating zombies!” Alright, not word for word, but zombies have always been a popular horror staple, especially in our household. From Romero’s series to Shaun of the Dead, right up to the recent TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, the “deceased and mobile” have been a regular fixture in Emma’s “education”. That’s why, for our next film, I decided we should fill in one of the crucial blanks in her zombie repertoire: Dan O’Bannon’s cult classic horror-comedy, The Return of the Living Dead.
Ron: Alright, Emma, I’ll let you get the first words in. Give us the rundown on The Return of the Living Dead.
Emma: Basically, years ago, these tanks were accidentally sent to a medical supply business. By accident, one of them is opened and it turns out the containers hold real zombies in them. There’s a leak of this greenish-smoke, one gets loose, and the bad thing is that they’re right near a cemetery, where a group of punk rockers are partying. Soon, the smoke gets outside and turns into a rain cloud over the cemetery, which means more zombies… and then things get really bad.
Ron: We both enjoyed it; me as a second-timer, Emma as a newbie. You had a lot to say about the makeup in the film. What were some of the highlights for you?
Emma: My very favourite part was this one zombie at the start, The Tarman. He was older than the newer zombies so he was all gucky and oily. I thought he looked awesome. There was another scene that I loved: it was where the coroner goes outside, and when he closes the ambulance door, he sees this amputee zombie. It yells at him while he’s eating brains, like “Aaaah!” and the guy shoots him. It falls over on its back, but then flips itself on his stomach and stands up on his stubs and he starts running at him. It was so funny and kinda creepy, because he was running after him SO quick. I couldn’t stop laughing – I had to rewind that one a couple of times. They made some very cool zombies here.
Ron: There was also another thing that we both enjoyed, and that was Linnea Quigley’s death-obsessed punk, Trash (note: and not just for the obvious reasons, either).
Emma: Trash was awesome – she was really funny. She was great when she was saying stuff like, “I like death” and “I like it. It makes a statement!”
Ron: It’s a small performance, but those lines got a big laugh out of me, too. Her little soliloquy about “being eaten alive by old men” works so well, because she delivers it with such emo-goth honesty. She gets the film’s vibe and steals the show. Alas, this is where we part ways, because Trash is also involved in one of Emma’s least favourite moments.
Emma: And that’s when she got naked. It was so sudden. She just pulls off her clothes and I wasn’t expecting it. At first I was like “Oh, I didn’t need to see that.” But then, I was like, “Why doesn’t she have a vagina?” It was like she had the body of a mannequin.
Ron: And that’s when I explained how the filmmakers had to cover her “area” with a prosthetic pelvis.
Emma: Well, it was REALLY weird and wrong, either way. I also didn’t like Trash as a zombie. She looked like the clown from It, and I didn’t like that. That really kinda ruined it for me. I think it would have been cooler if she wasn’t so gross. If she still looked like Trash, only now she was dead and ate brains, she would have been scarier.
Ron: Now, in regards to this being appropriate for younger audiences, you thought this might be a bit harsher than our previous film discussed, Child’s Play.
Emma: Yes, It’s more violent than Child’s Play. You got zombies scooping brains out of skulls and some other gory stuff. Like where they’re sawing the head off the yellow zombie with a pickaxe through his head. I actually thought he was That Yellow Bastard from Kill Bill, by the way.
Ron: You mean Sin City?
Emma: (Raises eyebrow) Yeah, that’s what I said… anyways, it still all depends on what your kids have seen before. If your kids have seen boobies before, then it’s fine. But it IS very sudden, and might be kinda shocking. There’s also some butt, too, so be warned. If not, then I’d have to say “no.”
Ron: As a kid with an interest in punk music, and a little bit of exposure to the scene, how did you feel about the gang of punks in the film?
Emma: That was a little weird, a little extreme. There was that total douche, Suicide. He was always so angry. Nobody can be that angry all the time. “You think this is a [bleeping] costume? This is a way of life!” But it IS funny, it’s not like they’re saying “Yes, this is what punks are really like!” So it’s not like they were trying to say, “This is what punks are REALLY like.”
Ron: What about the soundtrack? You must have liked the punk bands they had here.
Emma: I’ll be honest, I didn’t even really notice the music. Not that I didn’t like it, but I was just too interested in the movie itself. There was one song I liked, when the zombies were coming out of the ground…
Ron: “Do Ya Wanna Party?”
Emma: What? I don’t know!
Ron: No, that’s the chorus of the song, “Partytime” by 45 Grave.
Emma: Oh. Yes, that was it. I liked that one.
Ron: You’ve had a lot of exposure to zombies in movies and TV. Taking your personal favourite zombie film, Romero’s Land of the Dead, how does Return stack up against it, zombie-wise?
Emma: Well, they’re completely different movies, really. Land takes itself more seriously. It may have little jokey moments in the film, but the zombies are serious, there’s nothing funny about them. So I like them both for different reasons.
Ron: So let’s compare the film to another of your personal favourites, Shaun of the Dead, also a horror-comedy. How about that?
Emma: First of all, it’s a different kind of comedy. Not completely different, but I think a lot of it is because of the time that these films were made. What was funny in the ’80s might not be so funny now, so the way they tell their jokes is different. I also think the jokes in Shaun were more…
Emma: Yeah, that’ll work. Subtle. But I’d say that Shaun and Return are pretty much equal as horror-comedies. I liked them both.
Ron: Wrapping things up, we both enjoyed The Return of the Living Dead. As far as whether or not your kids can watch this? Well, use personal discretion. It’s bloody, foul-mouthed…
Emma: …and the boobies. Don’t forget the boobies.
Ron: Precisely. Use your judgment. If they are ready, chances are, they’ll get a kick out of it.
Thanks for checking us out again. Next time, I’m handing over the wheel to Emma. She’s going to pick one of her favourite films and we’ll give it the once-over. It only seems fair. Till then, sleep well, little monsters.