The Return of the Living Dead is a fantastic piece of horror-cinema that represents a specific period of time and remains to be exceedingly entertaining no matter when you watch it. TROTLD is horrific as much as it is funny and is able to win any horror fan over with its charm. The film has style and a punk-rock attitude that throws itself in your face and tries to melt it at the same time. The main success of the film is of course, the talent behind it, and namely, Mr. Dan O’Bannon. O’Bannon was a frustrated character whose talents won him appreciation from many people, but due to the cards he was dealt, he was unable to become “big” like his once-friend John Carpenter was able to do. O’Bannon’s physical ailments and difficult personality did not help him, leaving him without too many close compatriots in the end. Though everyone knows that his written masterpiece was Alien, The Return of the Living Dead is a close second and it displays his talents as a director. The cancer eating away at him was getting worse, and his time for creativity was coming to a close. Luckily he finished his zombie-comedy and was able to change the face of horror films after that point. O’Bannon’s legacy remains close to those who understand horror, and he will never be forgotten.
As a way to not only honor O’Bannon’s seminal masterpiece, the documentary has been created to fill all the fans in on what happened on the set in detail. The film is called, More Brains! A Return of the Living Dead Documentary and is produced by some of the people who made the Elm Street doc called, Never Sleep Again. While not as long, or intense as the Elm Street doc, this one is still chock full of commentary from a large amount of the cast and crew from The Return of the Living Dead. While I was only given the core film segment to watch, there are about two hours of extra material to view and satiate your need to know everything about the film. I was asked to review this doc, and while this is a review of sorts, I won’t dissect the film in my typical fashion. I feel as though O’Bannon fans will love More Brains and the doc really only applies to those who have seen The Return of the Living Dead, so there is no point in trying to win anyone over. You know it’s going to be good.
More Brains is narrated by Brian Peck (he really let himself go) who plays “Scuz” in TROTLD. While Peck might seem to be an odd choice, he does a great job at speaking clearly and being personable enough to keep you from being bored. All of the main characters from the film give their insight as to how filming went down and even some side character make an appearance (most notably, the paramedics). It’s interesting, as always, to see how these people look after so many years (“Trash” is…different). Tensions on the set are brought up as well as some thoughts on how O’Bannon acted all those years ago.
The doc is heavy with interviews and dense with information. I say this because only those who have seen the film will get anything out of two hours that you will spend sitting in front of a television. This is not a made-for-T.V. documentary; it is not a flashy piece of entertainment. The doc is put together with some very nice animations that are related to the film (see the trailer below), and it makes for a “comic book” feel that is reminiscent of Creepshow (in a way). Much like Never Sleep Again, there are not many clips shown from the original film, which is a bummer because it’s hard to remember every scene when they bring them up.
The origin of the film as well as the secrets that were hidden in its development are some of the more interesting points of the film, but I won’t describe any of them in fear of ruining your experience. The effects guys speak as well, allowing us to look at the 80’s magic of making zombies and gore. There is a discussion on the tone of the film and how many saw the comedy as silly, but not until the final product did they agree that O’Bannon really knew what he was doing. The doc ends with a message from O’Bannon right before his death, and he addresses all of his fans. It’s actually a touching and heart-griping message that shows you who O’Bannon really was.
Listen, if you’re a fan of the film, you need to see this and even if you’re lukewarm on O’Bannon’s classic, this might still interest you. Understanding how films are made interests me and I assume that is how many of you feel. More Brains educates and revisits a time period where films were made in a entirely different way.