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The Return of the Living Dead: Limited Edition Steelbook [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS 5.1, LPCM 2.0 Stereo Remixed Soundtrack (48kHz/16-bit), LPCM 2.0 Mono Original Soundtrack (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: N/A
  • Subtitles Color: N/A
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certification: 15
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Run time: 90 Mins.
  • Studio: Second Sight Films
  • Blu-ray Release Date: June 6, 2012
  • RRP: £22.99

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

In 1985, Dan O’Bannon (Alien) wrote and directed this sequel to the 1968 zombie horror classic by George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead, The Return of the Living Dead. Updated for an 80s aesthetic and re-invisioning the idea of what zombies were and could be, Return of the Living Dead was a campy, cynical, and punk infused horror gem from the mid-80s that went on to become an instant favorite with fans of the splatter sub-genre of horror.

Famous (or infamous) for its brain-craving zombies and Linnea Quigley as punker-girl Trash’s appearance naked or half-naked throughout most of the film’s 90-minutes, the story follows two bumbling medical supply warehouse workers Frank (James Karen) and his young apprentice Freddy (Thom Mathews) who unwittingly unleash a secret military chemical that has acid rain falling from the sky, and corpses coming back to life and digging their way out of their graves. Meanwhile, a group of punk rocker teens on a night about town are caught in the apocalyptic rising of the dead and must run, fight, and help defend the world from what could be an unstoppable menace.

Full of quips, a driving 80s punk soundtrack, and absurdist situations, The Return of the Living Dead helped reset the standard for what a zombie movie could be. If it weren’t for the miserable sequels that followed, the brand name might not have been tarnished forever, but this single film will always stand near the top of the list for cult horror fans.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

While The Return of the Living Dead looks generally film-like on this release in its AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encodement from Second Sight, I can’t say it qualifies as reference material. It may very well be a matter of the source material. There are obvious jumps in grain and damage due to dupes during a lot of the effects sequences, such as when Linnea Quigley (Trash) climbs from the grave. Dark areas in many spots look faded where they could have been burnt-in somewhat more, and there are a few spots where some posterization occurs. On the plus side, colors look reasonable for a film such as this one as do flesh tones, and The Return of the Living Dead will probably rarely look as good or much better on any home video format.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

There are three audio options supplied with this release of The Return of the Living Dead, a LPCM 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/16-bit) remix, a LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit) version of the original soundtrack, and a DTS 5.1 remix. Frankly, there is little to differentiate the two LPCM versions. The “stereo” has little stereo separation and must qualify as one of the narrowest stereo mixes I have ever heard, leaving me to question whether it is really stereo at all. It does have fuller sounding dialogue and effects, but still suffers from the crackle that is part of the original recordings. Other than those minor differences, it sounds very similar to the original monaural soundtrack. If you want to actually hear some stereo panning, then your option is to play the lossy DTS 5.1 mix that adds in slight directional panning of effects and dialogue across the front and mild ambience during the music sequences and some discrete sounds in rainstorm scenes.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

This disc is packed with five hours of bonus materials for fans to dig into. Top choice should go to the two-hour-long documentary, More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead that brings back the members of the cast and the filmmakers for an in-depth expose on the film’s long evolution, production and what not. Most of the other featurettes, offered in SD/PAL, are rather self-explanatory , but also include more interviews with the cast & crew.

The supplements:

  • More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 01:59:48)
  • More Brains! Bonus Features:
    • A Conversation with Dan O’Bannon: The Final Interview (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:28:32)
    • They Won’t Stay Dead: A Look at Return of the Living Dead Part II (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:28:32) – The actors and filmmakers discuss their impressions and, on the part of the filmmakers, refusal to work on the sequel to Return of the Living Dead.
    • Love Beyond the Grave: A Look at Return of the Living Dead 3 (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:19:59) – A look at yet another sequel in this franchise.
    • Stacey Q Live! “Tonight” Music Video (1.78:1; SD/PAL)
    • Deleted Documentary Scenes (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:15:08)
    • Return of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:02:55) – The cast members recite some of their standout one-liners in outtakes from the documentary during this condensed synopsis of Return of the Living Dead.
    • Resurrected Settings: The Filming Locations Today (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:09:37)
  • The Origins of Return of the Living Dead (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:15:58)
  • The FX of The Living Dead (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:21:29)
  • Party Time – 45 Grave & the Sound of Return of the Living Dead (1.78:1; SD/PAL; 00:19:06) – Dinah Cancer, lead singer for 45 Grave discusses the 70s music scene and the music of Return of the Living Dead.
  • Trailers (1080p/24)
  • Steelbook packaging

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Now’s the chance for cult horror fans to get this punk-infused 80s classic on Blu-ray in a limited edition steelbook from the UK, assuming you’re Region B capable. This release is more than worth the price of admission for the 5-hours of extras alone, but the crazy, surreal nature of the film itself makes it ideal for fans as well.

Additional Screen Captures

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Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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