Got Brains? How about More Brains! the Definitive Return of the Living Dead Doc? I have been aching to review this documentary since it first hit just over a year ago. I finally had the chance to watch it last night just on the heels of review Document of the Dead, the Dawn of the Dead doc. This was not a planned double dip into zombie docs. I didn’t fully suspect that I would receive a copy of Synapse’s Document of the Dead due to its limited edition status and high demand. Muchos Gracias Synapse for being rad. This gives me the perfect opportunity to discuss them both pitting Romero vs. Russo… or rather Roy Frumkes vs. Bill Philputt, the Directors of Document of the Dead and More Brains!: The Definitive Return of the Living Dead Doumentary respectively. You love Dawn of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead for different reasons individually; you love them both because their zombie movies that set the standard for undead filmmakers for years to come. Often imitated, never duplicated. Let’s talk Brains first then we’ll match ‘em up and give ‘em a throw down challenge. That’s just me starting a fight where a fight doesn’t exist.
If you’re not familiar with the late, great Dan O’Bannon zombie, comedy classic then you should stop reading this article, go pick up the gorgeous Blu-ray disc put out within the last year, watch the movie and then cry for not having watched it sooner. I’d find it hard to believe that there’s a horror fan out there that can’t find something to appreciate in ROTLD, but what not quite as humorous but is just as fascinating is the back story. You know the tale of the punks that violate the sanctity of an inner city cemetery, their diligent hardworking friend that has the misfortune to come into contact with a barrel full of evil army chemical shit and the warehouse that holds more than just medical supplies on warehouse shelves. More Brains gives you the chance to meet the brains behind the BRAINS!
More Brains! takes you from pre-production and the pre-history of Return of the Living Dead beginning with a concept from John Russo and the great studio legal feud over the zombie concept and naming conventions of both Dawn of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead to its casting to filming to release. The whole movie is here. 240 minutes of interviews, extra features and anecdotes, humor and wit and of course… brains. Does it work? Well if you’re the casual horror fan this is overkill. Maybe jump around through the chapters, find some of your favorite actors and listen to them recount tales of casting and filming. Remember, this is a horror comedy splatter fest and the actors are pretty damn funny. You’ll be entertained. If you have to sit through the whole thing, you better be ready for a long ride. While the background history is incredible, you don’t even get into movie production until 45 minutes into the documentary. That means you have about three more hours of material to go! Plenty of pee breaks. Plenty of coffee. Start it early. Be a fan. After that, all you have to do is watch a pretty long documentary about one movie (or three really). I’ve seen this movie compared to the Never Sleep Again, Nightmare on Elm Street Documentary. Yes, that was also a very long doc, breaking the three hour mark, but it featured a ton of movies, spanned over a decade and had fresh faces every few minutes from a new feature. I know you don’t think you can get tired of watching Linnea Quigley on screen (you can’t actually), but there are so many interviews and perspectives to keep track of… well… it’s like a mini talk show marathon. Of course some of the material focuses on Return of the Living Dead 2 and Return of the Living Dead 3, so to say it only spans one movie is misleading. It’s still a trial.
The bonus material is superb. As previously stated you get the They Won’t Stay Dead: A Look at Return of the Living Dead Part II, A Conversation With Dan O’Bannon: The Final Interview, Stacy Q Live!: Exclusive “Tonight” Music Video, Love Beyond the Grave: A Look at Return of the Living Dead 3 and Resurrected Settings: The Filming Locations Today. Best way to watch all of this is to take your time. Multiple sittings. Appreciate each piece by itself so as not to get overwhelmed. The coverage is so in depth as respects any of the bonus or feature materials you’ll have your brain full (more for the zombies to eat I suppose).
As for the correlation with Document of the Dead from George Romero, each film has its own strengths and weaknesses. Document is a concise vision of Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead. It’s a true testament to the history, effects work and human story surrounding Dawn of the Dead… that is of course until the addition of newer footage takes over and makes the film one giant gob of Romero instead of a focused Dead documentary. The first 45 minutes competes and surpasses More Brains! in both intrigue and substance, however after the 45 minutes mark you’re on your own; lost in the world of Romero. No bread crumbs. More Brains is a lengthy look back at every aspect of Return of the Living Dead (what is considered John Russo’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead). There is such a thing as too detailed. You can watch interview after interview and hear all the perspectives but at the end of the day, More Brains is full of way too much. It is in dire need of an editor. It needs focus for the audience. That being said maybe you want the WHOLE DAMN STORY. It really depends on what you want to get from the documentary. A concise look at a zombie picture that goes ape shit or look back under the microscope of every vicious molecule of Trioxin? You really don’t have to choose. Buy both. Enjoy both and discuss your won feelings about the two separate tangents that skew out Night of the Living Dead.
As John Russo makes clear, there was never really a feud between and him and Romero. It was the studios. Your best bet is to enjoy both pictures. Not on the same day. Maybe not in the same week. Re-Watch either movie then watch the documentary about the respective movie and do so feeling a bit more wiser if not a whole lot more scatter brained. Also important to remember is that More Brains is a new documentary. Most of what you’ll be watching is a true look back at the movie that made zombies funny and put the brains in the mythology. Document of the Dead was filmed during Dawn of the Dead and released in 1985 originally.
More Brains! is available HERE and comes to you via CAV Distributing whose catalog is worth every minute of time you’ll spend with it. CAV controls the distro rights to so many classics (including both Document of the Dead (Synapse) and this feature. Visit CAV Distributing HERE. So many of your favorites all in one place. We’ll be reviewing quite a few of their titles going forward.
-Dr. TERROR… always fantasizing about being killed.