Wow, were to even begin?
The 1986 film Raiders Of The Living Dead is not an easy movie to describe. It’s a film that somehow manages mix terrorists, zombies, journalists, movie theaters, a sociopathic kid who somehow invents a death ray, and the Three Stooges. If that makes it sound like something you want to see …. well, good. You should see this movie, just so you can say that you’ve had the experience.
On the plus side, Raiders of the Living Dead opens with one of the most brilliant songs that I’ve ever heard. Seriously, take a listen and then ask yourself why Olivia Cooke was covering Bob Dylan in Life Itself instead of this song:
So, I know what you’re asking. “What’s this movie about?”
I’m not really sure. Here’s what I can tell you.
The movie opens with a truck apparently being hijacked. At least, I think it was a hijacking. A guy jumped in a truck and drove off with it and then some police cars started following him down a country road so I’m going to assume that some sort of law was broken. Anyway, the truck gets away because a dump truck pulls in front of the police cars. The dump truck driver isn’t an accomplice or anything. He’s just having engine trouble. I guess the cops just decided they had wasted enough time chasing the other truck so they decided to just sit around and watch the dump truck driver work on his engine.
Suddenly, we’re in a nuclear power plant! Oh my God, a terrorist is trying to blow the place up! That will lead to an environmental catastrophe and …. oh never mind. Two SWAT guys just showed up and shot the terrorist with a taser and then the terrorist stumbled into a circuit box and got electrocuted so I guess that’s a god thing.
Now, I’m not sure how either of these scenes are connected to the rest of the film. In fact, we soon abandon the nuclear power plant so that we can send time with Jonathan (Scott Schwartz, the same kind who got his tongue stuck to the flag pole in A Christmas Story) and his grandfather, Dr. Corstairs (Robert Allen). Dr Corstairs is having trouble with whatever the 80s equivalent of a DVD player is and he gives it Jonathan to see if he can fix it. Somehow, Jonathan turns it into a death ray and accidentally atomizes his pet hamster. Jonathan never seems to be too upset over killing his pet, which leads me to suspect that Jonathan is a sociopath.
Meanwhile, there’s a reporter named Morgan (Robert Deveau), who drags his girlfriend with him to an old farmhouse in the middle of the night. He says that he’s investigating something for a story but I think he just has a thing for farmhouses. Anyway, they get attacked by zombies. Morgan escapes. His girlfriend doesn’t. Morgan never seems to be too upset about it, proving that Morgan is as much of a sociopath as Jonathan.
Anyway, Morgan goes into hiding, which in this case means getting a room in a nearby boarding house and looking for clues at the library. He also gets a new girlfriend named Shelley (Donna Asali). They go to a Three Stooges film festival together. They watch a Three Stooges short which means that viewers of Raiders of the Living Dead also have to watch it. This actually happens more than once.
Anyway, it’s all somehow connected to a mad scientist who is creating zombies out in a deserted prison somewhere. I’m not really sure how it all connects and neither is the film. Jonathan’s death ray does kind of play a role in resolving the whole zombie subplot but to be honest, I was so curious about why no one was freaking out about a kid having a death ray that it was sometimes hard to focus on just what exactly was going on at the prison.
So, this is a very strange film. Apparently, it was shot over a lengthy period of time, with footage being shot until the production ran out of money and then filming resuming whenever some more money came in. That probably explains why Raiders of the Living Dead seems to actually be five or six films in one. As bad as the film is, I am going to give it a cautious recommendation just because it’s so damn weird that I think everyone should experience it at least once.
Plus, I love that theme song!