One of the most enduring films of the 1980’s, “Return of the Living Dead” is such a relic of its decade and time that it’d be impossible to remake it. Which is why it’s become such a beloved film among horror aficionados and film buffs alike. For its time, “Return of the Living Dead” was a fresh bold take on the zombie sub-genre and to this day continues to be a template upon which most horror comedies and zombie films are created. Dan O’Bannon’s zombie was an intelligent, unstoppable, lightning fast force of nature and it shockingly only worked for “Return of the Living Dead.” All other efforts were null and void.
For a film that’s been dissected time and time again and been praised as one of the milestones of the horror genre, it was only a matter of time until the 1985 iconic horror comedy would receive the retrospective treatment. In the ritual of 2010’s smash success “Never Sleep Again,” the producers of the four hour documentary bring fans of the Dan O’Bannon film a four hour look at the creation of the eighties zombie flick that finely combs over about 98 percent of the production. While not as finely tuned and richly compiled as “Never Sleep Again,” fans will find little to quibble with “More Brains!” as the creators of the film go over every detail possible from the casting, to the original script concept, right down to factoids about iconic moments during the film that many fans remember with a smile.
How did the producers cover up Linnea Quigley’s vagina during her famous cemetery strip? Which actor had the most problems with director Dan O’Bannon? Which cast member had the worst attitude? Which cast member was literally homeless during production? You get to find those out and much more during “More Brains!” I’m one of the few horror geeks who didn’t take to “Return” right away, but after watching the documentary you get a real sense of love behind the intentions to spotlight one of the most beloved eighties titles, and even the most well versed horror buffs will find something to take away from “More Brains!” in the end. For a fan like me who has had more than enough fantasies of Trash, perhaps the most fascinating segment involves the development of the character perfected by Ms. Linnea Quigley known as Trash and her ultimate fate during filming.
There’s also an excellent look at the development of the famous Tarman zombie and how the producers ultimately based the film around him. For many folks, “More Brains!” will be like a lightning strike to the past where horror was much bolder and simpler. And keeping in the tradition of the documentary “Never Sleep Again,” director Bill Philputt perfectly spotlights what it takes to make an honest to goodness work of art on such a small budget, and what genius it requires to make little to no resources work for the production crew. Like the original “Nightmare,” 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead” was an independent film that ultimately became a beloved cult classic and for anyone interested in the cogs and screws of one of the finest horror films of all time, “More Brains!” is definitely for you.
Among the four hour documentary, there are a slew of special features for fans looking to get comprehensive. There’s a thirty minute look at the creation of “Return of the Living Dead II” the not so well received follow-up to “Return” that attempted to live up to O’Bannon’s film and failed remarkably. There’s also a twenty minute look at the creation of “Return of the Living Dead III” a very quick but interesting look at the twisted romance that continues to be met with mixed reviews. Suspiciously there is no interview with star Melinda Clarke. Probably because she swore never to star in another horror movie after the disaster of “Return III.” Sorry folks there’s also no mention of the horrific “Return IV,” and “Return V.” You’re not missing much.
There’s the thirty minute “A Conversation with Dan O’Bannon: The Final Interview,” an interview with the genius director who discusses his experiences on “Return,” and how the studio system worked for and against him. There are also fourteen deleted scenes not featured in the documentary that recall some of the more minute production designs and anecdotes about “Return.” Among the scenes there’s discussion of Quigley’s red hair, Thom Matthews injury during the final scene of “Return,” the making of the scene involving the coroner’s corpse, and so much more.
There’s also a special music video feature Stacey Q singing her famous “Tonight (We’ll Make Love Til We Die),” an entertaining ten minute look at the settings of “Return” and what they look like in modern times. Finally there’s “Return of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes,” and the trailers to “More Brains!” and “Never Sleep Again.” While it does gloss over some aspects of the original film I would have loved to learn about, “More Brains!” is nevertheless a detailed, absolutely entertaining, and finely compiled look at the making of one of the most iconic horror comedies of all time. Eighties children, horror buffs, and fans of “Return” will not be disappointed.