After spending the second half of the 1980s making soft and hardcore erotic films, Joe D'Amato made a return to his favourite genre -' the horror film, a genre in which he'd scored some of his most extraordinary and crazed triumphs (Beyond the Darkness, Anthropophagus, Horrible). The film he made -' Ritorno dalla morte (Return from Death) shares with its predecessors some of D'Amato's favoured techniques -' depthless characterisation, scabrous political satire, a magpie-like approach to content, the last in this case involving stealing elements from not only classic Universal and more recent (Corman, Branagh) Frankenstein movies but also from Fulci's Aenigma and perhaps the 1977 Richard Burton film The Medusa Touch.
An early sequence in the film tells us that D'Amato is in reflexive mood, showing his own technique of theft in action: the protagonist Georgia, a lonely young widow and mother with nascent telekinetic powers living in a German tourist trap town and working in a video shop, is sitting in the backroom at work surrounded by posters from various horror films (A Clockwork Orange, Friday the 13th The Final Chapter, Herzog's Nosferatu, Dracula, Nightmare on Elm Street) rediscovering her telekinetic prowess when three goons -' droogs in cheap rubber horror film Halloween masks -' burst in and rough her up. Georgia is blonde, and one of the other posters on the wall is of Marilyn Monroe. D'Amato self-consciously draws attention to his own position as thief, compiler, exploiter and referential homage-player to the cinema of others, a postmodern confession that this is a just another unoriginal cheap rip-off horror movie.
The tourist town in which Georgia lives and suffers deserves some comment. Its buildings and streets perfectly preserve a Baroque 18th century Bavaria which is self-consciously exploited by a local millionaire businessman who polices the town with his own private security force, and who exploits the past for his own profit. It is his own son who leads the gang of droogs that molest Georgia. Later we see him sleazing a young lady, having bought her body and soul after forcing her mother into debt. Not only is this a savage satire on the way Europe is structured today, there is also a kind of mordant self-criticism on D'Amato's part here, as his position as a sleazy auteur exploiting the cinema of the past and young actresses of the present makes the millionaire a similar kind of stand-in for himself as the faded aristocrat turned pornographer who plays the pivotal role in D'Amato's 1984 film The Alcove.
The central idea of the film is that Georgia, after being tortured by visions of her son being brutally decapitated, is bashed into a coma by the ruffians. Her friend, a retired, punch-drunk and disabled boxer named Ric, is blamed for the killing and his suicide is faked in his cell. Georgia uses her telekinetic powers to reanimate Ric (Stuart Gordon's 1985 Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator is name-checked on the glass panel of the medical centre Georgia is kept in) and wreaks revenge on those who have wronged her. This entire situation -' ripped off though it clearly is from Fulci's Aenigma -' is another reflection on the director's own role. He is sharing his horrific visions with us, and then uses actors as puppets to enact his revenge on those he thinks ought to die -' the hypocrites, thugs and corrupt in our society -' but also himself as a part of that corrupt world. The film is a kind of arrangement of D'Amato's own public ritual suicide. After it he never made a mainstream horror film again, disappearing forever into the shady corporate world of hardcore video releases, defacing the classics of European history and culture (Carmen, Hamlet, Marc Antony, Othello, Goya et al) into obscene pornographic entertainments.
Ritorno dalla morte is not by any stretch of the imagination a decent film: it is as slow, lumbering, deadly and barely alive as one would expect a reanimated corpse to be. It is almost deliberately refuses the thrills of the genre, yet this is a man who proved in the past perfectly capable of providing them. It is perhaps better seen as the final confession of a man about what he has done with his life, offering a self-lacerating insight into the world of an exploitation filmmaker who was always hideously aware of the horror he was perpetrating. In this sense, the film is the perfect coda to an exemplary postmodern film-making career.
Review by jaibo from the Internet Movie Database.