Son of 31 Nights, 31 Frights: The Return of the Living Dead

Son of 31 Nights, 31 Frights

In observance of that autumn spell when we celebrate the primal, compulsive instinct of fear, Rainestorm once more highlights 31 days of spooky scares to season the eerie atmosphere of Halloween.

For those who tuned in last year, I subjected you to a daily dose of diabolical dread and devilish distress. Just as every good horror movie deserves an inferior sequel, I offer this follow-up of also-rans, not bads, and perhaps a couple of you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-mes.

Unleashed: 1985

Tarman from The Return of the Living Dead

"Try the mud bath. It's a delight!"

What evil lurks: George A. Romero may have created the modern zombie, but this movie gave them their insatiable craving for braaaiiins. Mixing equal parts horror and comedy, director and Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon disposes of the dead-serious political undertones of Romero’s movies and instead opts for straight-up goofball hijinks at a medical supply company located next to a cemetery and conveniently stocked with cadavers. What it lacks in production value and acting finesse, it makes up for in some truly interesting images of horror. Few are likely to forget their first exposure to the legendary Tarman, puppeting around on barely useful limbs in gleeful search of gray matter. Neither can one discount the bound half-corpse who waxes insightful on the pain of being dead. This movie also ups the ante in that there really is no way to kill the walking corpses without creating scores more. The funky synth-rock score is simultaneously upbeat and spooky but the punk rock soundtrack truly dates the film. Return of the Living Dead also holds the distinction of featuring running zombies and an exposed, shaved mons pubis nearly two decades before either was fashionable.

Highlight from hell: Taxidermic butterflies pinned to a collection case comically begin flapping their reanimated wings.

Terrifying trivia: The proprietor of the medical supply company is named Burt and his friend at the mortuary is named Ernie… no relation.

Diabolical dialogue: “I know you’re in here… because I can smell your braaaaiiiiiiins!”

Son of: Night of the Living Dead (1968). The movie that invented zombies as living dead. Romero collaborated with Return of the Living Dead author John A. Russo to create this seminal horror film, paving the way for zombies as political allegories in the decades to follow.

Shoddy sequel syndrome: The low-rent production design and cut-rate performances make this a film for die-hard horror fans only.