The Most Important 1980s Punk Rock Horror Comedy Is Streaming Right Now

By Brian Myers | Updated

 The soundtrack is a feature that can make or break a film. Imagine the movies Pulp Fiction, The Crow, or even Forrest Gump without the carefully curated songs to accompany the action on the screen or providing interludes between the scenes. A soundtrack that truly captured the essence of the film like no other was from the 1985 horror comedy Return of the Living Dead, which not only worked to accentuate the cinematography but also gave the 1980s one of the greatest punk rock collections of all time and is now streaming for free.

A Spoof, Not A Sequel

return of the living dead streaming

Return of the Living Dead isn’t a sequel to Night of the Living Dead (1968) in the literal sense, but rather a spoof of what a sequel might look like. It assumes that the events from the classic Romero zombie film happened, but that it was quickly contained by the military. Streaming this film will show you how a lone zombie corpse in a barrel of a Trioxin gas was mistakenly sent to a medical supply warehouse where it was stored for years before being disturbed by curious employees.

Zombies Arise

After the barrel is opened and the gas leaks out, it infects a cadaver that’s being stored in the medical supply house’s morgue. This causes the body to reanimate and attack the employees. The body is taken to a nearby incinerator, but the fumes from the Trioxin work to create a low-lying fog that seeps into the ground of a nearby cemetery.

Return of the Living Dead sees the bodies rise from their graves, just as a group of young punks have invaded the grounds one evening for a night of partying. The debauchery the teens have planned gets interrupted in the worst way as the zombies make their way from their tombs so that they can feed on human brains. It becomes a question of who will survive the attacks and how they will make it out of the cemetery.

Don’t Expect Shakespeare

return of the living dead streaming

The film has the corny dialogue you might expect from a horror-comedy which is on par with the B-movie acting. But the special effects are fantastic, the work of Bob and Kevin McCarthy on par with anything Tom Savini created under the direction of Romero for Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead. But the real contribution Return of the Living Dead made was the list of songs that played throughout its 91-minute streaming time.

The Music

return of the living dead streaming

Return of the Living Dead‘s streaming soundtrack begins with “Surfin’ Dead” by psychobilly band The Cramps, before leading into the punk rock classic “Party Time” by 45 Grave. T.S.O.L.’s heavy hitting “Nothin’ for You,” The Flesh Eaters’ “Eyes Without a Face,” and The Damned’s “Dead Beat Dance,” all work to give the film the right sounds for both the partying and the zombie attacks on the screen.

Return of the Living Dead also featured garage band icon Roky Erickson (formerly of The 13th Floor Elevators) with his single “Burn the Flame.”

Stream It Now


The film was a success at the box office, bringing in more than $14 million on a budget of only $4 million. Return of the Living Dead spawned several sequels as well, though none with a soundtrack as iconic as the original. The sequels, like the original, can also be found on various streaming services.

The movie’s contributions to the zombie horror genre are every bit as significant as Romero’s original zombie movies and the modern-day series The Walking Dead, albeit this streaming movie is probably the first one that weaves comedy into an otherwise frightening set of circumstances.

Return of the Living Dead is streaming for free on Pluto, Tubi, and Roku, or rent it On Demand with Vudu, AppleTV, and Prime.