I have to admit when I first heard about this title years ago I assumed it was a cheap sequel to George A Romero’s classic The Night of the Living Dead (1968). While it does owe a debt to that seminal zombie film, Dan O’Bannon’s update carves out its own place in the zombie canon by shedding the social conscience that made Romero’s film so important and instead focuses on the fun and entertainment value. If you took Romero’s film and brushed off the real world commentary and plugged it directly into the excesses of the 1980’s culture, you’d get this film. It’s violent, gory, comical and downright insane.
This film is a product of the familiarity with tropes of the genre and actually references The Night of the Living Dead in the same way films like Scream meta-textually reference its predecessors within the story. It uses common set-ups of the genre to infuse comedy as well as create new rules. O’Bannon’s zombies can run, talk, and reason and often manage to out-think the humans. These zombies aren’t mindless vessels skulking around the landscape, they are actual characters who feel and are able to articulate their purpose: devour brains to quell the pain of decomposing.
The characters and situations are familiar but are spun into genuinely unique territory by utilizing a ridiculous humor throughout the screenplay, from the outlandish 80’s punks to the macabre mortuary attendant and bumbling medical supply company staff. The interactions of these groups are insanely fun to watch and inject an energy to the film. This film is dialed to 11 in the best way possible.