Return of the Living Dead is responsible for a lot of young men (and I would imagine a fair few ladies too) developing something of a crush on b-movie legend Linnea Quigley thanks to her uproarious portrayal of the punk kid called Trash in this frankly brilliant piece of 1980s horror-comedy perfection. Trash is just one element of the film which was carried off perfectly, as ROTLD is one of the most fun horror movies of the era, and remains a massively entertaining experience tot his day.
John Russo of Night of the Living Dead fame (aka the guy that isn't George A. Romero) developed the story from a novel he wrote, and although Dan O'Bannon changed a lot of it, the film retains some of Russo's influence.
Thus Return Of The Living Dead was sort of intended as an alternate sequel to Night Of The Living Dead. George Romero, of course, had already followed it up with his own sequels DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD. The tone of ROTLD is far lighter than Romero's apocalyptic entries, with an anarchic feel to it in keeping with the screwball comedies and outrageous horrors of the time.
The story is simple and satisfying: A military chemical called Trioxin is accidentally unleashed by two bumbling medical supplies workers, and it quickly starts reanimating corpses and body parts. The chemical's vapours are carried into the air and infect a rain cloud, which batters a nearby cemetery with polluted water. Immediately bodies are clawing their way out of the ground to feast on the living.
In the middle of this is a gang of punk layabouts ( including the aforementioned Linnea Quigley) who become our unwitting heroes in the fight against the undead. Some, of course, end up as zombies themselves.You can't help but feel Quigley must have been freezing during filming, considering how much of her screen time is spent without her costume on.
ROTLD also brought the horror world the joy that is TARMAN, a gooey, droopy, skull-faced zombie with the iconic war cry of "Braaaaaiiiinnsss!" TARMAN is an amazing piece of special effects joy, both funny and freaky at the same time. The joy of the film is the tongue in cheek sense of sick fun which permeates every frame. Even the scenes of violence and gore seem cartoony and lighthearted in a weird way.
A punk rock atmosphere helps things stay on the right side of edgy, and the visuals are somewhat comic-book style to go with that atmosphere. With a top soundtrack, a punchy edit and so much going on throughout it, Return Of The Living Dead is a firm favourite with genre addicts all over the world.