Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Return of the Living Dead

According to Frank, the guy who runs the stockroom at Uneeda Medical Supply, Night of the Living Dead was based on a true story. Apparently, up in Pittsburgh somewhere, a chemical spill at a hospital caused a bunch of corpses down in the morgue to twitch and jump around, as if alive. But the government cleaned up the mess and hushed it all up. So how does Frank know about it then, asks new hire Freddy. In a "typical Army fuck up" the corpses were shipped to Uneeda by mistake and are sitting down in the basement right now.

While showing Freddy the canisters, Frank somehow manages to crack one open, spraying them both with a thick cloud of toxic zombie gas. The two stumble upstairs to find the gas has reanimated not only the split dogs ("for veterinarian schools") but the cadaver in the freezer. This doesn't sit well with Burt, Uneeda's owner. Taking the lead from the original film, Frank is pretty sure if they can destroy the cadaver's brain, that'll put the cadaver back down.

Unfortunately, George Romero fudged on some of the facts, and braining a zombie doesn't have any effect.

Meanwhile, across the street... Freddy's friends wait patiently for him to get off work so they can go party. In fact, they get a jump start on things by breaking into a conveniently located cemetery; convenient for the plot, if a bit unlikely to be centered in an industrial area. These kids, with clever names like Scuz, Suicide, Spider, and Tina, while away the evening watching their friend Trash give an impromptu strip show atop a crypt. (She spends the remainder of the movie nude, by the way, because, well, duh.)

Okay, so, braining the cadaver and even decapitating it does nothing. The thing still runs around like... well... like a cadaver with its head cut off. Chopping it up does no good either and all they can think to do is destroy it completely. Good thing Burt's friend Ernie is a mortician right across the street and has a crematorium they can use.

But when the smoke from the oven mixes with the falling rain, all hell breaks loose: the cemetery is soaked and suddenly corpses are rising from mud.

Now it's Scuz, Suicide, Burt, Ernie, and the rest of the cast against an army of zombies. And these aren't your ordinary shambling, brainless flesh eaters. No, these zombies are spry, intelligent, capable of strategy. Plus there's the sheer volume of their numbers. Paramedics, cops, anyone who gets near the cemetery is quickly pulled asunder by the mob of undead.

Scuz, Burt, et al, have barricaded themselves in the mortuary, but the mass of undead outside has left them with no escape route. Worse yet, it's becoming apparent Freddy and Frank may be dead themselves, if not keenly aware of it yet. So, even if they can stave off the hungry corpses outside, there's a growing problem inside to deal with.

This film is a true classic of the zombie genre. It's smartly directed, there's blood and guts, a great soundtrack (Stacy Q song notwithstanding). And it manages to poke fun at itself and the genre without being disrespectful to its origins. Worth seeing again and again.

Directed by Dan O'Bannon • R • 1985 • 91 minutes

No comments:

Post a Comment