Four Reasons The Return of the Living Dead is the Perfect Punk Rock Film for Halloween
Get your fix of horror with a bite of punk this Halloween with The Return of the Living Dead, a cult-classic, hilarious gore fest. If you haven’t seen it, this film pins three old geezers with a group of punks fighting for survival from zombies as they hide out in a morgue. With the perfect mix of hysterics and freight, the movie features everything you might want in a zombie film – brutal deaths, no-win scenarios, fear, anger, grotesque makeup, gnarly feasting – plus, stellar punk rock music. And I thought I would take a moment to share a few reasons the film is perfect for punks.
Before We Get Into It
I want to mention that this isn’t necessarily a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, however, there are definitely references to the movie and its famed director George A. Romero. You see, at the beginning of the film, the character named Frank tells Freddy how Night of the Living Dead is based on true events, that in order not to be sued, George A. Romero had to change up the details when making the movie allowing this sort of parallel universe. As you hear him tell the tale, you have to laugh a bit. You should also know that this is the director debut for Dan O’Bannon who also wrote the movie. He had a hand in writing two other classic movies you might have heard of – Alien and Total Recall. Hell of a resume.
The first reason why this film is great for punk fans is the music. Featuring some classic punk rock bands the soundtrack is killer (no pun intended), to say the least. In one scene, as the dead rise from the grave, 45 Grave kicks on with “Partytime.” And The Cramps get a moment with “Surfin Dead” as the cast of characters do their best to fend off an attacking horde. In addition, The Damned has a song titled “Dead Beat Dance,” T.S.O.L. with “Nothing for You,” and plenty more. Just for you, I left the tracklist below.
- “Surfin’ Dead” by The Cramps
- “Partytime” (Zombie Version) by 45 Grave
- “Nothing for You” by T.S.O.L.
- “Eyes without a Face” by The Flesh Eaters
- “Burn the Flames” by Roky Erickson
- “Dead Beat Dance” by The Damned
- “Take a Walk” by Tall Boys
- “Love Under Will” by The Jet Black Berries
- “Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die)” by SSQ
- Thrash’s Theme by SSQ
Similar Revolutionary Qualities
Now, let’s talk about the film and genre similarities. Much like punk which revolutionized the music world, The Return of the Living Dead revolutionized the film world by introducing a new zombie ideology that has become standard in movies today. To give you a few examples, this is one of the first times zombies run after their prey compared to the slow-walking zombies you find in Night of the Living Dead. Something that has become standard and seen in 28 Days Later or even the 2000s version of Dawn of the Dead.
If you have ever heard a zombie say “Brains,” then you need to thank The Return of the Living Dead. Another first in film history and something that has been adapted into movies, books, and even songs like “Braineaters” by the Misfits.
Then, you have the epic scene within The Return of the Living Dead when a zombie actually explains why they eat brains. There is so much chaos with zombie movies you don’t often get an explanation on why they have turned or need to consume the living. In this film, there is a scene where a zombie gives all the details of the pain she feels and how munching on brains helps give some relief.
Ha – Ha, Run – Run
The next similarity between the film and genre can be seen in the hilarious twists they share. The movie’s ability to blend comedy with its forum reminds me of the early bands like the Ramones who did the same thing. Many bands these days attribute the Ramones as an influence for their comedic approach. I wonder if you can say if there would ever be a Shawn of the Dead or even Idle Hands (not that it’s a zombie movie) without The Return of the Living Dead to pave the way. Maybe. Either way, gotta appreciate the trailblazers no matter what forum it might be.
Give You a Reason to Hate the Government
And last similarity – hate for the power-hungry on the top. Not that you needed another reason to hate the government, BUT The Return of the Living Dead will help in that regard much like some of our favorite songs which point out the obvious flaws in our system. From the early beginning of the film when the aforementioned Frank informs Freddy about the true story of the zombies in Night of the Living Dead, he also tells him they are a result of government experimentation. When Freddy questions how Frank could know, he tells him that there is a case in the back from the experiments. If you can put two and two together, you will understand where the zombies in The Return of the Dead come from. I hope. And not to spoil too much mystery from the film, the ending will have you cursing the government’s name like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.