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The last couple years have seen the rise of the horror movie retrospective documentary, wherein hardcore fans have been getting together to create the ultimate DVD tributes to their favorite horror films & franchises. Lovingly crafted by the super fans for themselves and their fellow fans, these DVD's are generally extensive looks back at those films, giving us all unprecedented access to behind the scenes information about the movies we love, such as the Elm Street (Never Sleep Again), Psycho (The Psycho Legacy) & Scream (Still Screaming) franchises. It's a trend i'm absolutely loving and I was so excited when I heard that the next film to be given the treatment would be Return of the Living Dead, from some of the same people behind Never Sleep Again, perhaps my favorite horror documentary of all time. More Brains! A Return To The Living Dead hit DVD this past October and thanks to the generosity of Mr. Kris Kringle, I finally got the chance to watch it last night.
Narrated by Return of the Living Dead's Scuz, Brian Peck, the only actor to appear in all three of the original films in the franchise, More Brains! is a two hour documentary that explores nearly every aspect of the creation of the film, from the initial genesis of the idea right down to behind the scenes looks that literally take you on set and detail the filming of nearly every scene. No holds are barred as the filming process is brought to life by raw and honest stories told by not only the main cast, both humans and zombies, but also nearly everyone involved in bringing the film to life behind the camera. Infused with the same EC Comics style that made Return so awesome, the documentary is jam packed with tons of information, including behind the scenes photos and original concept art, all of which is delivered in a fun and thoroughly entertaining fashion, as the various cast and crew members shoot the shit about their experiences while sitting against backdrops that recreate imagery from the film. In other words, if you're a lover of Return of the Living Dead, there's absolutely no way you won't also love this documentary. The Tarman promises you that much.
As someone who has always been a huge fan of Return of the Living Dead but has never really known much about what went on behind the scenes in the summer of 1984, I was the absolute perfect audience for the documentary and came out the other end with a whole lot of information I never knew and the answers to a lot of questions i've pondered for years finally answered, such as why the hell it looks like Linnea Quigley has no vagina in the iconic nude graveyard dance scene. Yep, these are the things that keep me up at night. Cross that one off the list.
I guess the same can be said for any film but one of the most interesting things I took from the documentary is that it's almost a miracle that it ever made it into our lives, both because of oftentimes miserable and tense shooting conditions as well as the many stages the film went through before the cameras actually started rolling. What initially started as a straight up sequel to Night of the Living Dead, written by the guy who co-wrote that film with Romero, didn't turn into the punk rock horror comedy that we know and love until Alien creator Dan O'Bannon was brought on board to overhaul the script, and even then the original plan was to have it be in 3D with Texas Chainsaw director Tobe Hooper at the helm. When Hooper's schedule became too full, O'Bannon was given the directorial reigns, his first time ever making a film, and the rest is of course history. The whole story behind the film is utterly fascinating and again, this was all new information for me so I eagerly soaked it up like a goddamn sponge. Can you imagine a world where the Return of the Living Dead we love never existed?!
Another aspect of the film which is heavily explored are the incredible makeup effects, which were brought to life by several different artists, one of whom was fired before the film even wrapped due to his inexperience (he shares his side of things in the doc). The effects are one of the main things that has always made Return of the Living Dead stand out to me and I feel like a better horror fan now that I know the names Tony Gardner, the young rookie who created the iconic half corpse zombie, as well as William Stout, the man who brought Tarman to life. To be able to finally put names and faces to the effects I so love was one of the real treats of the doc for me, as were the behind the scenes looks at how those old school 80's effects were pulled off. Can't get enough of that kinda stuff. Viva la animatronics!
More Brains! is not only the ultimate fly on the wall experience for the Return of the Living Dead fan, taking us all back in time to experience what it was like to make the movie, but it's also an interesting look inside the mind of the late Dan O'Bannon, a mad genius that I am endlessly fascinated by. At times the nicest guy in the world and others a true terror on set, O'Bannon was an enigmatic force to be reckoned with and i'd personally love to someday see an entire documentary devoted to his life and career. That said, there's plenty of O'Bannon material in here, including on set photos, oodles of anecdotes and even the final interview he ever gave, wherein he seems aware that his days are numbered and thanks the fans for their love and support.
One of the coolest things about the disc is the special features package, a package so stacked with content that the runtime of the bonus material clocks in at 2 hours, the same runtime as the documentary itself. Included are two mini documentaries that briefly touch upon Return of the Living Dead's 2 & 3, covering everything from the disappointment that is Part 2 to the oddball qualities that have made Part 3 an enduring cult classic. Though the two films are only respectively touched upon for 30 and 20 minutes, it was cool to see them featured at all. The more recent direct to TV fourth and fifth sequels aren't mentioned at all on the disc, which really isn't much of a surprise considering they're rarely mentioned alongside the first three installments and are oftentimes completely disregarded by fans.
Also on the disc is the aforementioned full final interview with O'Bannon, which clocks in at around 30 minutes, a look at the filming locations as they appear today, a brand new video for Stacey Q's soundtrack song 'Tonight' (Toooooooniiiiiight, we'll make love till we dieeeee!!!!), a slew of documentary deleted scenes and more.
All in all More Brains! is a well rounded look at all things Return of the Living Dead, an informative and entertaining four hours that is an absolute must own for all fans of the film. Your franchise collection simply isn't complete without it. If we could only be so lucky to have all of our favorite horror films get this loving treatment!