7. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Director: Dan O’Bannon
Stars: Clu Galager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Jewel Shepherd, Linnea Quigley, Miguel A. Nunez, Jr., Brian Peck, Mark Venturini
Within the horror genre’s storied history, Dan O’Bannon is largely overlooked, and that’s a crying shame. An old college pal of acclaimed director John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog), the eccentric O’Bannon was a man of many excellent ideas, one of which turned out to be Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi/horror masterwork Alien, co-written by O’Bannon, though his contributions to that 1979 outerspace nightmare generator are rarely heralded.
When the mid-1980s came around, O’Bannon must’ve gotten fed up with being slept-on, so he decided to direct his feature film. The magic that derived from his do-it-myself attitude is The Return of the Living Dead, a clever and rapidly paced zombie flick in which the ghouls run faster than Carl Lewis, chow down on human brains, and lure the fuzz to their place-of-slaughter over police car walkie-talkies by drolly requesting, “Send more cops.”
Going all out with the film’s inside joke, O’Bannon posited The Return of the Living Dead as “based on true events,” and had his characters directly reference 1968’s Night of the Living Dead only to have them subsequently abandon all of George A. Romero’s ideals. Simply off this triumph, O’Bannon should’ve went on to have the career of someone like Wes Craven; unfortunately, he was never able to match the prolific nature of onetime buddy Carpenter before his death in 2009.