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Rated PG-13
Copyright 1986 Independent International Pictures.
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 16 Feb 2008

The Characters:  

  • Morgan Randall - Before graduating journalism school, every reporter takes a vow of silence. This vow only applies to giving the police useful information to solve crimes. Speaking to anyone else in any capacity and bugging the police chief for news stories is fair game. Morgan takes his vow very seriously.
  • Shelly - She has a bad habit of picking up lunatic hitchhikers and then falling for them. Women like her completely skew the life expectancy graphs.
  • Dr. Carstairs - He bought a laserdisc player for $175 in 1986. Lucky!
  • Jonathan - As a kid, I tried to make a death ray from a broken remote control car. All that happened was I made a mess and received one (minor) shock. This brat manages to build not one, but two working laser pistols. How does he do it? None of the usual ingredients for a laser breakthrough are present. Not even vaseline! When was the last time you saw somebody invent a laser weapon without a little help from vaseline?
  • Michelle - Sexual harassment causes her to hyperventilate, but she remains calm when confronted by rotting zombies. I swear, girls are a completely different species.
  • Axton, Detective Kruger, or "Somebody Else" - This is the guy who Dr. Carstairs calls and asks for help. He shows up at the prison wearing a white t-shirt and carrying an M16. He immediately gets eaten by the zombies. For the life of me, I cannot verify the character's name.
  • The Man in Black - Ohhh, evil zombie guy. Zapped.
  • Dr. Kapek - The evil mastermind who created the zombies. Considering the fact that a seventy-year-old man takes his pistol while he is monologuing, Kapek must have spent his first year in prison repeating the phrase, "Why am I so stupid?"
  • The Zombies - A legion of the living dead. Defeated by a reporter, a senior citizen with a bow and arrows, and two kids shooting "laser pistols."

Buy It!

The Plot: 

"Raiders of the Living Dead" begins with an awesome opening credits sequence. Sure, there are credits and spooky background images that change every so often, but the real treat is the theme song. Jam along to "...the deeeaaaddd are after meeeeee!" and you'll understand why I have a soft spot for some of the bad 80's movies. They were awful, often quite awful, but something many of them did right was to create a memorable title/theme song. The opening credits are the best part of "Raiders of the Living Dead." While that is not a big achievement, the title song does make me giggle.

The film begins with a crazy guy hijacking a tanker truck full of radioactive material. Psycho dude has a pretty easy time of it, because all he does is open the truck's passenger side door and climb in. Then the police chase the truck as it slowly cruises through a forest (on a dirt road). The cops lose the hijacked tanker when a dump truck suddenly pulls out and blocks the road. All of this is confusing, because the dump truck's driver gets out and pops the hood to the engine and starts fiddling around. The police just stare at the guy.

No, nobody says anything. The dump truck driver does not ask the cops what is going on and the police officers do not tell him to move his truck so they can continue the chase. Weird, huh? Did I mention that the title song is the best part of the movie?

Next stop for Mr. Crazy Hijacker is the local nuclear power plant. He takes some hostages and threatens to detonate a small bundle of dynamite before the SWAT team arrives. One officer zaps the terrorist with a taser (from an Uzi) and then disarms the explosive device, but the bad guy manages to pull out the electric dart and run away. He does not get far before the officer wrestles with him again, resulting in the hijacker stumbling into an electrical panel and being electrocuted yet again. This time the shock is lethal.

I am uncertain exactly how everything we have seen so far meshes with the rest of the movie. I think that the hijacker is the Man in Black, but cannot be certain. If he isn't the Man in Black, I am completely lost as to why the first fifteen minutes of the film was necessary. Shoot, even if he is the Man in Black, I do not know why it was necessary.

Now we meet Jonathan and his grandfather, Dr. Carstairs. The young man is staying with grandpa while his parents are away. He fancies himself to be a competent electrical repairman and attempts to troubleshoot Dr. Carstairs' broken laserdisc player. What that amounts to is the lad using a pair of pliers to rip various transistors and other components out of the laserdisc player. Jonathan hits paydirt when he connects two wires. He invents a death ray! Unfortunately, his hamster is in the line of fire. What remains of the unfortunate pet looks like a two-year-old orange.

Elsewhere, Morgan Randall is working on a story. Accompanied by his photographer, the reporter pokes around an old farmyard at night. Zombies attack and the girl is dragged away. Morgan is choked unconscious by the Man in Black and left for dead. He fails to die. Instead, the reporter attempts to hitchhike back to town. Shelly picks him up before a car runs him over (note to self: hitchhiking does not involving staggering into the center of the road). Once he is cleaned up, Morgan buys a sawed-off shotgun and rents a room at a local boarding house. Check out how he conceals the sawed-off; he wraps it in paper and tucks it under his arm. The package even looks like a sawed-off shotgun wrapped in newspaper!

Something bad about the soundtrack is the weird music used when people are sneaking around in the dark. I recognized the harp and am pretty certain that I heard an oboe. Are we watching "Peter and the Wolf?" Does Shelly play the clarinet? Is there a duck in here, somewhere? Why do I worry about these things?

Jonathan continues to perfect his death ray. He performs some limited tests that result in a pair of juvenile delinquents screaming and trying to cover their heads with their hands. Being shot in the temple with television static will do that to you (for some reason, the laserdisc player's laser appears to fire a beam of B&W static).

Things seem to be turning out pretty well for Morgan, especially after he takes Shelly out on a date. He discovers that life is still fun and exciting after getting home from the date. A zombie bursts into his room. The shotgun dispatches the reanimated corpse, but then the dodo drops the weapon while crossing the street (if zombies are after me, my sawed-off shotgun will have a lanyard). Lucky for Morgan that Dr. Carstairs happens to pass by. The old doctor invites the traumatized reporter back to his house for coffee and conversation. Mr. Randall tells his new friend all about the living dead that are dogging his every move and Dr. Carstairs believes every word. He advises the younger man to get out of town and lay low for a while. Morgan agrees to do just that.

Women hate it when you fail to call them after a date. Even worse, they worry when the first call they get is from the police, asking if they know anything about the rotting corpse that was found in your room. Shelly is no different than other women, except she goes looking for Morgan and finds him! The hunted man tells her about the zombies that are stalking him. She insists on helping her new boyfriend despite the obvious danger.

What is it about Morgan that causes people to immediately trust him and believe stories that sound like the ranting of a madman? There are people who I have known for years who would mace me and then run away if I started babbling about zombies coming after me.

Me: "Bill, I need to talk to you about something."
Bill: "What is that, Andrew?"
Me: "Zombies are after me. I blew the head off of a rotting corpse that punched its way out of my closet the other day."
(Insert the sound of me getting maced here.)
Me: "Ahhhhhh! F**k! What was that for?"
Bill: "Stay away freak!"
Me: "Now I can't see the zombies coming."
(Insert the sound of me getting maced again.)

Look, if you ever create zombies, sic them on some stupid reporter and leave me out of it. Sending them after me is just going to result in my friends hitting me with mace and pepper spray. That will tick me off big time and I will take it out on you, once I find your secret zombie lab.

When she returns to her apartment, Shelly is surprised by zombies and taken captive. Desperate to find the source of the zombies, Morgan runs down the only lead he has: part of a uniform with the letters "RCI" stamped on it. He discovers the meaning of the letters from an old librarian (she looks disinterested in zombies, though mummies terrify her) who tells the reporter all about Rockmoore Prison. It seems that the old place was closed down after the prison doctor was accused of conducting inhumane experiments on the inmates.

Armed with only a flashlight, Morgan quickly travels to Rockmoore Prison. Lucky for him that Dr. Carstairs rallies what troops he can find and follows. Of course, being an eighty-year-old nut who listens to other nuts, the doctor's strike force consists of Jonathan, Michelle, and another guy who quickly gets chomped. Forget the fact that the crumbling facility does not resemble a prison; it looks more like a WWII coastal defense fort. They are in the right place. Morgan has found the zombies' home base; he rescues Shelly from the underground tunnels, but the zombies are closing in. Will Jonathan's portable death ray lasers be enough to stop the undead horde?

The movie's ending will catch you off your guard. If you are on your toes, you might be able to ask, "Wait! That is it?" before the theme song starts and the credits roll. Gotta love that theme song. "The Deeeaaaddd are after meeeeee!"

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Radioactive liquids are commonly transported in unguarded tanker trucks.
  • Be wary of buying earrings from a jeweler who spent twenty years working as a carpenter.
  • SWAT teams are armed with Uzis and wear bulletproof aprons.
  • Laserdisc players are lethal to rodents.
  • Leaping into traffic is a dangerous but effective hitchhiking technique.
  • The key to buying a sawed-off shotgun is mastery of the "rabid NRA freak" dialect.
  • If you are forced to perform an amputation with a firearm, use a sawed-off shotgun.
  • The undead tend to wear too much mascara.
  • Being shot by a laser stings a little.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 7 mins - The dump truck driver must be in on it. You should shoot him.
  • 25 mins - Why are you doing that? The zombie is so slow that you could give it a kerosene sponge bath.
  • 26 mins - Jack Skellington?
  • 30 mins - Your search for a gummed tape dispenser is finally over.
  • 40 mins - I think that is a liver spot.
  • 51 mins - The person who designed the 1980's "Twilight Zone" intro montage obviously worked on this film as well.
  • 53 mins - Is that headboard surfaced with bathroom tiles?
  • 78 mins - This scene could take a while...
  • 82 mins - ...still waiting.
  • Ending Credits - Mr. and Ms. DiFedinando took pity upon their new son and named him "Tom."


  • Morgan: "I really appreciate you coming out here to track me down, but you're asking for trouble."
    Shelly: "Well, I may be asking for it, but you've already got it. There was a dead body outside your room and now the police are looking for you. What's going on?"
  • Jonathan: "Well, this Randall's no looney and my grandfather takes him very seriously."
    Michelle: "About what?"
    Jonathan: "About being attacked by zombies."
    Michelle: "Zombies? You're not making this up?"
    Jonathan: "Uh-uh. I saw a special on TV about them once. They have them in Haiti."

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note raiddead1.wav (Zap sound)
Jonathan: "Oh damn, Felix!"
Michelle: "Is something wrong?"
Jonathan: "Yeah, it's Felix. I think I killed him."
Michelle: "Why'd you do that? Was it an experiment?"
Jonathan: "Yeah, sort of, but it wasn't supposed to happen that way."
Michelle: "You're a dangerous man to know. Just what are you cooking up in your lab?"
Jonathan: "A new death ray. I want to rule this block!"
Green Music Note raiddead2.wav Morgan speaks "gun nut" to the gun store owner.
Green Music Note raiddead3.wav Librarian: "Early in the morning, the jailers would ring those horrible bells to wake the prisoners for some awful reason. There's some people who insist they still hear them ring, and the prison's been closed for forty years!"
Green Music Note raiddead4.wav Morgan: "So you went from prison doctor to coroner in one easy step."
Dr. Kapek: "Not so easy. There's always those curious ones who have to play 'investigative reporter.'"
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 



 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipraiddead1.mpg - 4.0m
Jonathan accidentally tests his improvised laser on two guys who are yelling catcalls at Michelle.

That looks pretty complicated. Did Bud Orr design it?

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