‘The Return of the Living Dead’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit Correspondent, Tony Farinella.

The Return of The Living Dead” was released the same year I was born, 1985.  Even thirty-seven years later, it is clear to see the impact the film had on horror movies, specifically zombie movies.  It was a film which was truly ahead of its time. I remember watching and enjoying the Scream Factory Blu-ray when it was released many years ago, and I enjoyed it even more on 4K Ultra HD. The blood, the gore and the colors really are vibrant and stunning on this release.  This is a tremendous release from Scream Factory, and it is being released just in time for the Halloween season.  It’s a perfect addition to your 4K horror film collection.

The film is just as funny as it is gory, which is truly saying something. This is not a simple task to pull off, as sometimes zombie films have a hard time with that balancing act.  “The Return of the Living Dead” opens up by introducing us to two lovable but goofy factory workers named Freddy (Thom Mathews) and Frank (James Karen), as they work together at the aptly named Uneeda medical supply warehouse. Frank is hoping to look cool in front of Freddy by showing him some of the dead zombie bodies they have lying around the warehouse. According to Frank, the filmmakers behind “Night of the Living Dead” were ordered by government officials to change certain aspects of the film in order to hide from the public that zombies are indeed real and were used for military purposes. Unfortunately for them, when toxic gas is released from one of the meat lockers, the zombies start to rise from the dead.

The only thing that will take away the pain of the zombies is eating brains.  These zombies really love brains, and they move a lot quicker than zombies we have seen in previous films.  Also, if you take off their head, the rest of the body is still mobile and able to attack.  The only way to truly kill these zombies is to burn them completely.  Before long, there are hundreds of zombies, and the police and the medics can’t keep up with them. Burt (the late Clu Gulager) is trying to navigate this situation as best as he can, but he’s also looking to save the good name of his company and not let the public know that two of his workers are responsible for this mess.

Freddy is part of a punk rock gang that likes to raise hell, listen to music and have a good time with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Freddy’s gang is looking to help him, but they are also finding themselves in over their heads with all these zombies coming for them left and right. Freddy has a girlfriend named Tina along with some friends named Spider, Trash, Chuck, Casey, Scuz and Suicide. Meanwhile, Burt looks to his friend, Ernie (Don Calfa), for help in disposing of the cadaver zombie that was released thanks to his co-workers. Ernie wants to be helpful, but this is above his pay grade as a mortician.  Even though burning a zombie can kill it, it can also lead to toxic rain falling from the sky. This creates even more problems as it burns the skin and also brings more zombies to life from their graves.

This is one of many great things about “The Return of the Living Dead.”  There is nothing about the film which is cut and dry.  There might be a solution around the corner, as mentioned, but it doesn’t come without casualties or consequences. You also tend to feel a little bit of sympathy for these zombies, especially when you notice that Freddy and Frank are starting to become zombies.  They don’t want to eat brains, but it is the only thing that will stop their suffering and pain.  The zombies are also beautifully designed and look fantastic on screen.  Sometimes they pop up out of nowhere, and sometimes they come in large packs that move really, really fast.  These are complex and interesting zombies. These are not your average, run-of-the-mill zombies, and this is a big reason why this film has had such staying power.

“The Return of the Living Dead” also has a ton of quotable lines and quirky characters.  I don’t think I can keep a straight face when I hear the line, “It’s not a bad question, Burt.”  Every time I watch this film, I gain a new appreciation for it.  In my eyes, it is the perfect zombie film.  If I had to choose only one tiny issue with this film, and it is a minor one, it is the fact it ends rather abruptly.  Besides this little picadillo, this is my favorite zombie movie of all time.  Of course, I respect “Dawn of the Dead” and “Night of the Living Dead,” but from a pure entertainment standpoint and for the rewatch factor, “The Return of the Living Dead” is simply horror movie heaven for yours truly.  It is the film which keeps on giving with its gore comedy, and quirky cast of characters.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K/Blu-ray Info: “The Return of the Living Dead” is released on a 3-disc 4K and Blu-ray combo pack from Scream Factory.  One disc is the 4K of the film, another disc is the Blu-ray, and the third disc includes the special features on a Blu-ray disc.

4K Video/Audio Info: We are treated to this film on an absolutely stunning 4K Dolby Digital HDR transfer. As soon as the film started, I was sucked into how beautiful and bright it looked on my television.  They have done a brand-new 4K scan of the original camera negative, and it makes it one of the best-looking horror 4K’s of the year.  The bloody reds are a thing to behold, and the darks are also spot-on with this transfer.  Scream Factory has been on a roll lately. The audio track on the film is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 with English subtitles.  I thought the audio was perfect, especially during the scenes involving some of the punk rock music.  I didn’t have to adjust my volume on this film at all. I was able to keep it at the same volume throughout the entire film.

Special Features:

DISC 1 – (Feature Film – 4K UHD)

·     NEW 2022 4K Scan of The Original Camera Negative

·     In Dolby Vision (HDR 10 Compatible)

·     DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0

·     Audio Commentary with Gary Smart (Co-author of “The Complete History of The Return of The Living Dead”) And Chris Griffiths

·     Audio Commentary with Actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin and Make-up Effects Artist Tony Gardner

·     Audio Commentary with Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout

·     Audio Commentary with The Cast and Crew Featuring Production Designer William Stout and Actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph and Allan Trautman

·     Zombie Subtitles

·     In Their Words – The Zombies Speak

DISC 2 – (Feature Film – Blu-ray)

·     2022 4K Scan of The Original Camera Negative

·     DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0

·     Audio Commentary with Gary Smart (Co-author of “The Complete History of The Return of The Living Dead”) and Chris Griffiths

·     Audio Commentary with Actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin and Make-up Effects Artist Tony Gardner

·     Audio Commentary with Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout

·     Audio Commentary with the cast and crew Featuring Production Designer William Stout and actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph and Allan Trautman

·     The Decade of Darkness – Featurette On ’80s Horror Films

·     Theatrical Trailers

·     TV Spots

·     Still Gallery – Posters, Lobby Cards, Movie Stills and Behind-The-Scenes Photos

·     Still Gallery – Behind-The-Scenes Photos from Special Make-up Effects Artist Kenny Myers’ Personal Collection

DISC 3 – (Special Features – Blu-ray)

·     “The Return of The Living Dead” Workprint – Includes 20 minutes of additional footage (in standard definition)

·     More Brains: A Return to The Living Dead – The Definitive Documentary on “The Return of the Living Dead.”

·     The FX of “The Return of the Living Dead” – with Production Designer William Stout, FX Make-up Artists William Munns, Tony Gardner, Kenny Myers and Craig Caton-Largnet, Visual Effects Artists Bret Mixon and Gene Warren Jr. and actor Brian Peck (Expanded Version)

·     Party Time: The Music of “The Return of The Living Dead” – with Music Consultants Budd Carr and Steve Pross and soundtrack artists plus musicians (Expanded Version)

·     The Origins of The Living Dead – An Interview with John A. Russo

·     “The Return of The Living Dead:” The Dead Have Risen – Interviews with cast members Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Brian Peck, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, Linnea Quigley and More…

·     Designing The Dead – Interviews with Writer/Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout

·     HORROR’S HALLOWED GROUNDS – Revisiting the locations of this film

·     A Conversation with Dan O’Bannon – His final interview

Should You Buy It?

Do you have a perfect zombie movie? Check.  Do you have an outstanding 4K picture transfer? Check. Do you have a boat load of special features? Check.  This film is a day one purchase without any hesitation whatsoever. It comes out on October 18, and it is a great horror movie to watch during the spooky season of 2022.  If you haven’t already, you should pre-order this film from Scream Factory.  I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.  I can’t say enough glowing things about this movie or its 4K transfer.  When you factor in how rewatchable this film is (it only runs at 91 minutes), it’s the kind of film that is going to bring something new to the table for viewers each and every time.  It’s a ton of fun, gory, well-acted, cheesy in a good way, and it truly had something new to offer to the horror genre. If you have seen this film before, you have probably already pre-ordered it and can’t wait to watch it again on 4K.  If you haven’t seen it before, you are in for a big surprise when you watch this movie.  Once again, “The Return of the Living Dead” gets a top recommendation from yours truly.

Exclusive Interview on ‘The Houses October Built 2’ with Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews

The Houses October Built 2 poster

Just as the found footage movie looked to be taking its final breath, “The Houses October Built’ came along and provided horror fans with a unique angle on it as a group of friends ventured across America in search of the ultimate haunted house attraction. While the movie ended with these friends suffering a fate not all that different from what Gene Bervoets experienced in “The Vanishing,” “The Houses October Built 2” shows them to be alive and also internet superstars thanks to the videos of them being buried alive on YouTube. Vendors are now offering to pay them to visit Halloween haunts, and Zack, Bobby, Mikey and Jeff jump at the opportunity to cash in on their celebrity. Brandy, however, opts out as the trauma she suffered in the first film is something she is still coping with.

But alas, the Blue Skeleton, the group which takes the extreme haunt to another level and who kidnapped the group in the last film, are hot on their tails as they look determined to top everything they pulled off before. The stakes are raised even higher when Brandy changes her mind and decides to join her friends. But as they get closer and closer to the ultimate Halloween haunt known as Hellbent, one has to wonder if these friends will once again survive their haunted house travels, or will they instead meet their doom.

It was a pleasure speaking with “The House October Built 2’s” director, writer and star Bobby Roe recently, and he was joined by his co-star and co-writer Zack Andrews. As the original ended on an ambiguous note, coming up with a sequel must have been a serious challenge for them as you have to wonder what could possibly motivate these same characters to do another round of Halloween haunt exploring after the horrors they previously experienced. Both Bobby and Zack explained how they came up with the sequel, how they managed to find a way to get Brandy to rejoin her friends, and of the kind of Halloween haunts they wanted to explore this time around.

Check out the interview below:

Ben Kenber: This is a sequel I never thought would ever be made considering how the first film ended. With part two, you answered some questions which some may say would have been best left unanswered. When you were making the original, did you have a sequel to it in mind?

Bobby Roe: The haunt world is so huge, and we just wanted to be able to… Expanding is probably the primary goal of a sequel, expanding the world, and hopefully that is done with the Blue Skeleton. I know the ambiguity of the ending of part one is a real pro for some, and then for others, without having a bow on it, it was a real problem. So hopefully this part two services everyone. In some ways, it’s just about, at the end of the day, how extreme can you get.

Zack Andrews: I think the original stands on its own, but Bobby’s and my vision was always to have that kind of as an intermission and then have part two kind of pick up at that place and continue to tell the story and, as he was saying, that world is so big. In the first movie, we go to big businesses but they are more ma and pa operations. And in this film, as you can see, we kind of expand the world and end up at the Zombie Pup Crawl with 30,000 people. Just being able to see Halloween in a bigger scope, we continue to do that in this world.

Ben Kenber: After the first movie, you became celebrities to these Halloween haunts, and we can see this in part two. Did the first movie make going to these haunts easier or more challenging?

Bobby Roe: Sometimes it is more challenging because, if they recognize us, people try to up their game or at least make sure they are extra scary. Sometimes for us, we are thinking how far are people going to go. We received emails weekly since the first film came out which asked us to come and visit.

Zack Andrews: The community is… There are all these little families who come together to put these haunted houses on, and everybody has been really receptive to us through the first movie and the second movie. I think it is a win – win situation because they respect what we are trying to do by making the movie, and we respect their business. We love meeting all these people and coming into their world, and it feels like, so far, they like having us.

Ben Kenber: It certainly looks like they love having you guys around. When you were filming this sequel, did you talk with these Halloween haunt people ahead of time to let them know what you were going to do, or did you proceed incognito and went from there?

Bobby Roe: We had to go the legal route and get permission, but I think a lot of times they let us have free range which is really important because some of the sets were really beg. The owners, there is a lot of gratitude towards them because they have allowed us this blank slate on their haunts, and hopefully in return it brings a lot of business to them as well.

Ben Kenber: It’s amazing how big some of these haunts are, especially the haunted hay ride.

Zack Andrews: Oh yeah. It had thousands and thousands of people every night. That haunted hay ride was pretty awesome.

Ben Kenber: With this sequel, you are clearly moving on to bigger game as these haunts are much bigger than the ones we saw in the original. Were there any criteria you set for yourselves in terms of selecting haunts this time out?

Bobby Roe: It was important for us and to the characters’ story in there because of Brandy’s situation. Her deal for coming along is no haunted houses, so I think the guys try to loophole that by going to these more events until things go awry. So, to make her a little more comfortable, and we know that’s kind of a watermelon to swallow for the audience, why Brandy would come back having gone through the trauma that she did in part one, with her newfound success, with money or with whatever that you would think that character would eventually be brought back would ease her in. With these dark mazes and indoor haunts, as amazing as some of them are, they kind of bleed together on-screen. We thought using the Zombie 5K or the pub crawl would kind of give it a different range, and we made sure that it didn’t feel as episodic or that you were watching the same haunt over and over again. We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.

Ben Kenber: I really dug the Marilyn Manson quote you opened this movie with: “Times have not become more violent. They have just become more televised.” What made you decide to use that quote?

Bobby Roe: We started part one with a quote that we felt summed up the entire movie really well, and that was the quote “I’m not afraid of werewolves or vampires or haunted houses. I’m afraid of what real human beings do to other real human beings” (Walter Jon Williams). That was what part one was, and I think for part two, this quote summed up everything we talked about, and I just thought it was very interesting on top of it being an influence on us and the macabre horror world as well. We always really liked Marilyn Manson.

Ben Kenber: Considering what the characters, especially Brandy, went through in the first film, it must have been very tricky to come up with a good story line in which they would go through a situation very similar to what they endured before. How long did it take you to come up with a good reason for Brandy to rejoin the group while writing this film?

Zack Andrews: Well we knew this, as Bobby said earlier, would be the biggest watermelon to swallow. Why in the world would she do this again? We show up at her house, and I would think that it’s kind of the roll your eyes moment of okay you are just going to convince her, so it was important to us to try and be as authentic as possible and have Brandy just say no, and then we go out on the road on our own. But when we can’t do what we have set out to do because they are not going to pay us, that felt like an authentic way to call back and do a little begging and pleading because that’s how this would go down in real life (laughs).

Bobby Roe: Exposition in found footage is very tough. If you play by the rules, it’s very hard to give people those side stories where there shouldn’t be a camera. We had early on in the script that she needed money for school, her mom was sick, things like that, and they just become heavy-handed than they would in a normal narrative. So we kind of just went the more organic route and just had her say no, and then when she’s coming around we understand that money comes into play. Hopefully you understand the chemistry and the love for everybody as friends, and I think she’s coming for Zach and I because we need it. She’s coming along and being a good friend, and at the end of the day the simplest answer is sometimes the correct one. So hopefully people understand her journey and why she came along with us.

Ben Kenber: This sequel has a number of different POV’s from the characters, Blue Skeleton, and of course the drone. What was it like balancing out those various POV’s?

Bobby Roe: Well you still have to be conscious of where the camera crew has the camera. If you have seen the movie, you can understand a little bit more, call it our cheats, about certain ones, but for the most part we played by the rules. The drone was a character, and we showed the opening of the drone and that Jeff got it as a present. We thought it would be really cool to have him pilot it in the RV, so all these great wide established shots that you see in every other movie with helicopters, why can’t you do that in found footage while you’re driving? We were able to drive it from inside the RV as long as the drone stays within a certain range from us and follow us and tail us. So that’s very realistic, so why can’t we get those big pretty shots that you can in these giant features? We wanted to make sure that it made sense and that you believe in it as an audience and who’s filming this. As long as you make the drone a character, then hopefully we have a bigger and wider scope in part two as much as we can get. When there were 30,000 zombies in Minneapolis, we wanted to capture that the best that we could, and that was from the sky.

Ben Kenber: Do you see yourselves making a part three?

Bobby Roe: The haunt world is so huge and vast that the story is not done as long as the Blue Skeleton is growing, and hopefully at some point the legend of the Blue Skeleton starts to grow bigger. There’s much more story to tell, and there’s definitely a lot more haunts to show.

Ben Kenber: Have you thought about going outside of America to other countries to explore their Halloween haunts?

Zack Andrews: No comment.

Bobby Roe: We have thought about that. Without saying too much, we went over to ScareCON in London and spoke to a bunch of haunted house owners last year and it was really cool to see their take on a holiday that’s way bigger in America, and they really embrace this culture all year. It’s not just Halloween. We experience some things over there I think people would want to see.

I want to thank Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews for taking the time to talk with me. “The Houses October Built 2” will open in theaters and be available On Demand/Digital HD on September 22, 2017.

Click here to check out the interview I did with cast, writers and director of “The Houses October Built” which I did for We Got This Covered.