When Return of the Living Dead came out in 1985 it changed the face of the zombie-going public in lots of ways. One way was the popularization of talking zombies. In fact, they were not the first talking zombies. Check out 1932’s White Zombie where the title character talks throughout the film even in her zombified state. Granted she was a voodoo zombie not a rotting corpse. A little closer would be Michael Jackson’s singing and dancing zombies in his Thriller video.
What Return of the Living Dead gave us was the image of the rotting corpse speaking to us in our own sort of voice. At one point a partial female zombie is pulled in through a window and asked why she eats people. “Not people,” she explains, “brains.” Eating brains apparently was meant to ease the pain of rotting. A terrifying idea, that you can feel yourself rot. That’s a horror. Since then, the idea of the talking brain-eating zombie has been deeply ingrained in the public psyche.
One thing that would make a bit more sense in the story telling would be if the zombies weren’t so rotted or if they weren’t wise-cracking heads like we saw in Return of the Living Dead 2. A disaster.