23 Mar 2016

ZOMBIE FILM RULES - The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Every genre has cliches, but how well do Living Dead sequels follow the Zombie film rules?

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is film about a zombie outbreak after cannisters containing zombies from the events that  allegedly inspired Night of the Living Dead (1968).

The following analysis may contain spoilers for



There will be no warning...

"It's weird. These people seem to say they've been waiting for this to happen. Apparently, they've got some sort of contingency plan to deal with it." ~ Burt.

1a.  Eerie - Begins more commedic than eerie.
1b.  News - No news, just a story told by a workmate.
1c.  Sudden - There are two outbreaks, both sudden.


There may be sex and nudity.

"First, they would tear off my clothes..." ~ Trash.
"Hey, somebody get some light over here, Trash is taking off her clothes again." ~ Chuck.

2a.  Nudity - Trash gets naked and dances on a grave and then spends most of the rest of the film naked.  There is a nude male zombie, but only really seen from behind.  There is a topless bottomless female zombie (literally, naked without a bottom half) but it's a rotten green corpse.
2b.  Sex - A naked Trash tries to seduce Suicide but he pushes her away.  Chuck is obsessed with sex and constantly, unsubtly propositioning Casey, who rebuffs him.


Unknown cause.

"Sir, this is Colonel Glover. I'm sorry to disturb you at this hour, sir, but we're at Q-2 status. It looks like we've found that lost consignment of Easter eggs. Yes, sir, pretty sure. They've turned up in Louisville. I'm getting confirmations on this from the Louisville Police Department. Louisville, Kentucky, sir." ~ Colonel Glover.

3a.  Unknown origin - The origin is very clearly a gas called Trioxin 2-4-5 created for the US government.
3b.  Vague hints - The story told by Frank seems like a ghost story made to scare the new guy, but turns out to be true.
3c.  The originators - Darrow Chemicals, for the military.  The military appears, but basically separate to the main events of the film.


The Living Dead.

"You have no pulse, your blood pressure's zero-over-zero, you have no pupillary response, no reflexes and your temperature is 70 degrees." ~ Paramedic.
"Well, what does that mean?" ~ Freddy.
"Well, it's a puzzle because, technically, you're not alive. Except you're conscious, so we don't know what it means." ~ Paramedic.

4a.  Dead - They are all dead.  Frank and Freddy are borderline, having been directly exposed to the gas and didn't seem to die, but paramedics confirmed that had no life-signs.
4b.  Rising from the grave - Most of the Living Dead do this.
4c.  Instant decay - Frank and Freddy are exposed to the zombie-causing gas, and turn stagely pale before they stop living.  Trash, the only one who comes back after being killed has turned pure white.  Most of the other zombies are long and well decayed already.
4d.  Origin - The Living Dead are created by a Trioxin 2-4-5 gas, and it was spread by smoke from a burnt body, interacting with rain that caused the rest of the zombies to rise.
4e.  Spread - As noted, it's spread by Trioxin 2-4-5, mostly inside.  Suicide and Scuz are killed inside and where it is dry and do not return from the dead, Trash is killed (but seemingly not bitten) but revived by the rain.  That said, the paramedics don't resurrect and they're outside, it is possible that brain injuries stop resurrection.  The trioxin is also spread in the ash of burnt bodies and ash created by a certain large explosion.
4f.  Rudimentary IQ - Although they act mostly on instinct they seem to be pretty intelligent.
4g.  Rudimentary speech - Mostly the word "brains," but they can carry on complete conversations.
4h.  Lost memory - Certainly not for Frank and Freddy, not clear for other characters.
4i.  Slow/Shambling - A lot of shambling, but there are runners, too.  One (zombie-Trash) even sashays.
4j.  Swarms - They do swarm.
4k.  Stealth zombies - No real stealth attacks, but Suicide is killed when he pulls down a sheet and sees a zombie right behind it.
4l.  Feeding - The Living Dead feed solely on brains (one of the Living Dead says that it stops the pain.)
4m.  Destroy the brains - Using Night of the Living Dead as a source, Burt, Frank and Freddy attempt to kill one of the Living Dead by destroying its brain.  However, it turns out that destroying the brain doesn't stop them, only electricity does.
4n.  Exploding heads - No exploding heads.
4o.  The Z Word - When discussing Night of the Living Dead, Freddy said it was about "Zombies taking over the world."  Other than that other terms like "dead cadaver" and "things" are used.


The Living.

"You think this is a fuckin' costume? This is a way of life." ~ Suicide.

5a.  Individuals - Not really, mostly groups.  The gang and Burt, his employees and his friend Ernie.
5b.  Group of survivors - They do come together but split quickly.
5c.  Characters - The main group will include:
  • The hero - No real hero.
  • The heroine - Casey is the closest, but a long way off.  Tina is seemly meant to be things this, but fits the weepy girl better.
  • The bossy guy - Burt.  Others come close.
  • Bossy guy's female companion - None.
  • The secondary hero - No hero, no secondary hero.  Spider may come close but only develops towards the end.  Chuck, as well, I guess.
  • The weepy girl - Tina, also a little Casey.  Suicide is pretty whiney, but not really weepy or a girl.
  • Child - None.
  • The crazy guy - Ernie, more creepy, weird and possibly a former Nazi war criminal than crazy though.  Frank isn't really crazy, but had potential and is the one who knows the history.
  • Unbeliever - Possibly the police captain and the paramedics.
  • The gang leader - None.  The colonel may count, though.
5d.  Man is the real monster - Of the 11 main characters 2 were killed by the gas (eventually), and 3 were killed by the Living Dead, living 6 to be killed by the artillery strike (however at least 2 of those were about to be killed by one of the Living Dead.)  Beyond the main cast 4 paramedic and an unknown number of cops (the captain says "a dozen" just before him and at least 12 more are killed) while the colonel reports "less than 4,000 killed" by his strike on a 20 block area.
5e.  Steep learning curve - Not sure anyone in this film learns much.
5f.  Final Girl and Final Guy - Those alive just before the atillery strike are Tina and Casey (both probably final girl material, with Tina the more innocent of the two and Casey slightly tougher), Spider and Chuck (potentially final guys, if they were more important characters but Chuck is a little creepy) and Burt and Ernie (Burt is more the protector, but caused too much of this trying to protect his business and Ernie is just a little too creepy.)



"Do you ever wonder about all the different ways of dying? You know, violently? And wonder, like, what would be the most horrible way to die?" ~ Trash.

6a.  Standing around talking for no reason when endangered - The police captain.  The gang on the stairs (although not talking).
6b.  Grieving - Not really.
6c.  Making accidental noises - Not really.
6d.  Being unable to smell decaying flesh - Perhaps Suicide with the tar zombie, but maybe it smelt like tar.
6e.  Engaging hand-to-hand combat with zombies - Happens a few times.
6f.  Hiding secret bite - Bites weren't a factor in the spread, so N/A.
6g.  Unwilling to kill the bitten - Frank and Freddy were not bitten, but the group was unwilling to kill the pair slowly being turned by gas.
6h.  Unwilling to kill the undead - Doesn't seem to happen.
6i.  In-fighting - A little.
6j.  Fighting at all - None.
6k.  Having sex - Didn't happen.
6l.  Being cowardly - Some running away, not true cowardice.
6m.  Betraying the group - No betrayal.
6n.  Going anywhere they shouldn't go in a slasher film
  • Down to the Basement - The basement is where the tar zombie traps Tina and kills Suicide.  The film even includes a broken step on the way to the basement.
  • Upstairs - Into the roof-space which is the ultimate stupid move going upstairs.  Ernie and Tina are trapped, but die in the explosion before one of the Living Dead can kill them.
  • For a Shower - No one showers.  Trash does spend a lot of the time wet and naked, though.
  • Into old sheds or out buildings - Not really.  All the buildings are old, though.
  • Running off to the “safety” of the forest - No one goes into the forest.  A bunch of them run into a graveyard leading to the death (and rising) of one of them.
  • Anywhere alone - Tina is trapped by the tar zombie after going off alone.
  • Anywhere Remote, Isolated or Confined - The graveyards counts.  The youth gang goes there because the cops chase them away from everywhere else.
  • Any Old, Abandoned or Presumably Haunted Buildings - All  the buildings are old.
6o.  Relying on anything they shouldn't rely on in a slasher film
  • Communications devices - Some phones work, some are deliberately damaged by the living dead.
  • Lighting - Not too many lighting problems.
  • Vehicular Transport - Mostly explode off-screen.
  • Their Own Legs - Tina trips.  Tina falls through a staircase.  Ernie brakes his foot.
  • The Authorities - The police are easily killed by the living dead.  The military deliberately blows up part of a city.
  • Weapons – No problems.
  • Escape Routes - Cut off repeatedly.
6p.  Being over-confident - Thinking burning the body solved it pretty much counts.
6q.  Making a plan that is too complex - Running to a police car isn't particularly complex.  It fails.
6r.  Making a plan - See above.
6s.  Assume they're safe - They do when they burn the bodies.
6t.  Be happy - No one was particularly happy.
6u.  Just one last thing - Didn't happen.
6v.  Never assume anyone or anything is dead - Mostly done by paramedics and police.


Standard Plot.

"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.

7a.  Normal life - A little.  The new job in a warehouse, teens trying to find a place to party.
7b.  Sudden outbreak - A limited outbreak, followed by a few rounds of minor outbreaks getting bigger.
7c.  Meetings - A few permutations of character meeting up and forming small groups.
7d.  Civilisation will collapse - To soon, but it was on its way.  The fact that the President may be endangered at the end suggests more so.
7e.  Looting becomes scavenging - Didn't get to that stage really.
7f.  Gangs/bandits/cannibals - Too soon for other gangs.
7g.  Finding a place to hole up - Multiple.
7h.  Avoiding connecting to people - Some connections.
7i.  Suicidal - Frank kills himself rather than going on and becoming a cold wet zombie.
7j.  Undead loved-ones - Tina stays with a turning Freddy.  Later regrets it.
7l.  Limited food/water/bullets - Too soon for that.
7m.  Escape from a place - The group in the funeral home try, only half make it out.
7n.  Armoured vehicle - Unarmoured police car.
7o.  Don't let me turn/save a bullet - Having slowly turned into a walking corpse, Frank puts himself into the cremation furnace.
7p.  Injury - Ernie breaks his foot.
7q.  Heroic sacrifice - None really.
7r.  Death of the last survivor - They all die, leading to the film winding down.


There will be social commentary.

"Are you crazy? Are you on PCP?" ~ Ernie Kaltenbrunner.
"Nobody's on any drugs, man! Just let us in!" ~ Spider.

8a.  We are already zombies - Not hinted at.
8c.  Racism - Not suggested.
8d.  Working together - Vaguely covered.
8e.  Man is the real monster - The military.  Bert's attempts to cover everything up to save his business.
8f.  Zombies are people, too - These ones are the closest to normal people so far (apart from the non-zombie zombies in Warning Sign) but that idea is barely played with, with the exception of the final shot of Trash and the other zombies just before the explosion.
8g.  Other - Military and Big Chem are evil.  Movies lie.  Punks are people too.


There is no happily ending.

"The  rain will wash everything away. That's correct, sir. All should be back to normal by morning. Yes sir, I understand the President will visit Louisville tomorrow. No, no we wouldn’t want that to happen sir. No sir, this hasn’t been very pleasant for anyone.” ~ Colonel Glover.

9a.  Downer ending - All hope seems to be lost... and then the military bombs the place and kills everybody.  So, yeah.
9b.  Sudden end - Almost a sudden end, but followed by a wind-down "it's not over" ending, which even implies the President may be endangered.
9c.  Disaster porn - Not really.  Not much focus on the damage.
9d.  No cure - The bombing only spead the disease.

RULE #10


"Let me ask you a question: did you ever see that movie, 'Night of the Living Dead'?" ~ Frank.

10a.  Sequels - The Return of the Living Dead is a semi-sequel to Night of the Living Dead.  The original film is said to exist in The Return of the Living Dead as a fictionalisation of very different events that actually happened.   The film itself has 4 sequels.
10b.  Remakes - No remakes.
10c.  Adaptations - Ostensibly an adaptation of John Russo's novel "Return of the Living Dead" but little besides names are used.

Extra.  Versions - No real alternate versions.


"You have no pulse, your blood pressure's zero-over-zero, you have no pupillary response, no reflexes and your temperature is 70 degrees." ~ Paramedic.
"Well, what does that mean?" ~ Freddy.
"Well, it's a puzzle because, technically, you're not alive. Except you're conscious, so we don't know what it means." ~ Paramedic.

  • Rules that are followed in this film:  9, 10.
  • Rules that are partially followed, or not clear, in this film:   1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8
  • Rules not followed by the film:  4, 5

~ DUG.
    Do the survey to determine the next genre to be tested.
    Check out the schedule for upcoming Film Rules films to be reviewed.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment