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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: October 18th, 2022 Movie Release Year: 1985

The Return Of The Living Dead - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

From writer and director Dan O'Bannon, Return of the Living Dead remains one of the best zombie features that perfectly balances comedy and horror while also paying tribute to Romero's Dead films but leaps forward to do its own thing as a wildly entertaining and bonkers gorefest. Courtesy of Scream Factory, the cult horror comedy lumbers and sprints to 4K Ultra HD with a surprisingly outstanding Dolby Vision video but ports over the same trio of DTS-HD MA tracks and a treasure trove of bonus features. Overall, the three-disc UHD package makes for a Highly Recommended addition to the 4K horror collection.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the cemetery, those brain-eating zombies are back and hungry for more tasty mortals. A fiendish mix of outrageous humor and heart-stopping terror, this “veritable smorgasbord of fun” (L.A. Herald Examiner) delivers skin-crawling jolts, eye-popping visuals, and relentless surprises! When an accident at a medical supply warehouse reanimates an army of corpses, they arise from their graves with a ravenous hunger… for human brains!

 

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 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 The Film
  • A Conversation With Dan O'Bannon – His Final Interview

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region Free (UHD Only)
Video Resolution/Codec:
HDR10
Length:
91
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Blu-ray Copy
Release Date:
October 18th, 2022

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Twenty years before Shaun of the Dead made audiences laugh at the sight of reanimated corpses, Return of the Living Dead paid tribute to the zombie horror craze created by George A. Romero's Dead films. The title alone is a loving salute to the original drive-in feature, and the production initially began as an adaptation of John A. Russo's book. Early on, filmmakers even acknowledge their inspiration, both as a "tip of the hat" to the seminal 1968 zombie classic and to cleverly address the apparent reference. That scene is a chat between Freddy (Thom Matthews) and his supervisor Frank (James Karen) wanting to scare the living poop out of the new guy. While finishing his first day on the job at the Uneeda medical supply where he works with cadavers, Frank tells the gullible kid that Night of the Living Dead was based on a true story about the 245-Trioxin gas leak in a hospital in Pittsburgh. In fact, they have one of the corpses in the basement, and he shows it to him when they are suddenly exposed to the gas themselves.

In the hands of director Dan O'Bannon, the mind behind Alien and Total Recall, the movie does more than simply swoon over Romero's films. In his directorial debut, O'Bannon pummels audiences with copious amounts of hilarity and slapstick, as well as buckets of gore and bloody carnage. He also gives genre fans sentient zombies that can talk, hunt as a pack and sprint at full speed. The only way to kill the corpses is to chop them up into little pieces and cremate the suckers. That is if you have an embalmer for a friend with an available crematorium. That, or just napalm the city and call it a day. Either way works, really. But rather than merely chalking this up as a horror comedy, this very awesome 80s gem of my youth is really all horror, full of some great freaky moments. Simply think of it as a bloodcurdling zombie feature with a twisted and ghoulish sense of humor — pathological even as the graphic violence seems endlessly hilarious. 

 

As a first-time helmer, O'Bannon doesn't do anything that stands out visually. However, he's efficient and effective, and his talents really lay in the storytelling. His best moments behind the camera — as fans are sure to agree — are with Tarman (Allan Trautman) using a winch to break Tina (Beverly Randolph) out of a locker. Personally, I can't get enough of the cemetery scene. No, not the one with Trash (Linnea Quigley) dancing on top of a crypt. The one with the corpses rising from their graves as 45 Grave's "Partytime" suddenly blasts through the speakers. And the little person zombie is a great, bellyaching highlight. In the end, Return of the Living Dead is one of the best send-ups to Romero's Dead films ever devised, and it continues to generate laughs today.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Scream Factory brings Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead to 4K Ultra HD as a three-disc Collector's Edition combo pack. The Region Free, UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region A locked, BD50 copy on a center spindle while a second Region A locked, BD50 disc containing the rest of the bonus features sits on the opposing panel. All three discs are housed inside the standard black keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a menu screen with the usual selection along the bottom of the screen and the top right side shows full-motion clips while music playing in the background.

Video Review

Ranking:

The dead return to the living and swarm Ultra HD with a surprisingly outstanding and fantastic looking HEVC H.265 encode that was struck from a brand-new remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives. Granted, the picture quality won't immediately impress most casual viewers due to it looking a tad on the softer side, which is more the result of the film stock used and the original cinematography than any issues with the encoding. Nevertheless, this native 4K transfer offers a noticeable and very much welcomed uptick from its Blu-ray predecessor with several scenes looking sharp and highly detailed. Fine lines and objects reveal excellent textural definition, especially in the several close-ups of the oozing special effects of the walking dead. We can plainly make out every nook and cranny of Ernie's mortuary and the nearby cemetery.

The Dolby Vision HDR presentation also showcases an improved contrast balance and brighter, cleaner whites throughout, allowing for great clarity of the random items all over the warehouse and the silly pictures hanging on the mortuary walls. Specular highlights supply a crisp, radiant glow from the various light sources and a tight, narrow sparkle on the juicy, gory body parts. However, one area of very minor complaint would be the black levels, which are also an improvement, but there are a few instances of the finer details engulfed by the shadows, most notably when Tarman sees the gang of punks and says his infamous line. Thankfully, it's egregious enough to run the video's enjoyment, but it's worth noting nonetheless. Compared to its HD SDR counterpart, the overall palette is more vibrant and energetic with fuller, more sumptuous primaries and better, more spirited variation in the secondary hues, and facial complexions appear healthier with lifelike textures and a rosy-peachiness in the cast.

All in all, the colorful picture provides the grisly horror visuals with a warmer appeal that better suits the film's fun, comedic side, energizing the several action sequences with humor while the gore also looks grislier and gooier. Awash in a thin and consistent layer of natural film grain, the 1.85:1 image comes with an attractive film-like quality, making this cult zombie favorite the best it has ever looked on any home video format. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 88/100)

Audio Review

Ranking:

The dead sprint to 4K home theaters with the same three DTS-HD MA options as its Blu-ray predecessor: the original 2.0 mono soundtrack, a remastered 2.0 stereo version and a 5.1 surround upmix. As mentioned in that review, the original mono track is the overall winner, displaying a fuller and broader soundstage. In spite of being restrained to the center, imaging exhibits a better sense of presence with excellent detailing in the mid-range, providing every manic action sequence and the music with great clarity and a great deal of warmth. Low bass is accurate and responsive with appreciable weight during certain songs and scenes. For a more in-depth and thorough take on the audio quality, you can read our review of the 2016 Collector's Blu-ray Edition HERE. (Audio Rating: 82/100)

Special Features

Ranking:

For this UHD edition, Scream Factory ports over the same treasure trove of bonus features as their 2016 Collector's Blu-ray release and spread across the two accompanying BD discs.

UHD Disc

  • Audio Commentaries: four separate commentary tracks featuring various cast & crew members
  • Zombie Subtitles 
  • In Their Own Words: The Zombies Speak 

Blu-ray Disc One

  • Audio Commentaries: four separate commentary tracks featuring various cast & crew members
  • Zombie Subtitles 
  • In Their Own Words: The Zombies Speak 
  • The Decade of Darkness (SD, 23 min)
  • Still Galleries (HD)
  • Trailers (HD)

Blu-ray Disc Two

  • More Brains: A Return To The Living Dead (HD, 120 min)
  • The Return of the Living Dead Workprint (HD, 108 min)
  • The FX of the Living Dead (HD, 33 min)
  • Party Time (HD, 30 min)
  • A Conversation with Dan O'Bannon (HD, 29 min)
  • The Dead Have Risen (SD, 21 min)
  • The Origins of the Living Dead (HD, 15 min)
  • Designing the Dead (SD, 14 min)
  • Horror's Hallowed Grounds (HD, 10 min)

Return of the Living Dead is one of the best zombie features balancing a perfect mix of comedy and horror. With Dan O'Bannon's rewrites and direction, the movie pays tribute to Romero's Dead films for starting the genre craze, but suddenly leaps forward to do its own thing as a wild and crazy gorefest. Courtesy of Scream Factory, the cult horror comedy lumbers and sprints to 4K Ultra HD with a surprisingly outstanding Dolby Vision HDR presentation that offers a notable improvement over its Blu-ray predecessors. Porting over the same trio of DTS-HD MA soundtracks and a treasure trove of bonus features, the three-disc UHD package is the best the zombie favorite has ever looked on any format and makes for a Highly Recommended addition to the 4K horror collection.

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about the gear used for this review.