First, there’s a lot of great music scores and soundtracks to films, especially horror, however, I feel that The Return of the Living Dead has perhaps the finest, featuring punk, psychobilly and death rock, among a few other genres, a perfect album for such a great horror classic and one that achieves a cult following. Although the actual movie was released in October it is fun for the summer season too, since it was stated in the film and on the screen July 3rd. Whenever a horror fan, in the know, here’s the title commonly scream of “Braiiinsss!!!” cries out with devilish glee. Some have considered the film from Dan O’Bannon a horror comedy,, sorry wrong, it is horror film with a few comedic lines to lighten the tension from the swarming army of the zombies hungry for everyone’s brains. The soundtrack itself was originally released by Enigma Records in 1985, and unleashed to the masses in various countries, with close to 20 versions of the album in the forms of cassette, CD, digital and numerous vinyl designs, including the Tarman stylization. While I do have a Tarman version on vinyl I’m reviewing the 1985 Restless Record (7 72004-2) album for this review.
As is common with soundtrack reviews, they always follow a pattern of telling about the songs, the compositions and so forth, I shall go through the songs in the order that they played in during the film rather than the order on the actual soundtrack. This will work for almost all the tracks except for The Damned’s “Dead Beat Dance” this song was removed from the film when released on Blu-ray from Shout Factory, likely a licensing matter unresolved, it was though in the original movie and on the HBO Video Release. The lead off track is from T.S.O.L. “Nothing for You,” which for those unsure is when the gang of punks are strutting down the street before meeting up with Suicide’s Cadillac controvertible, this anthem-like track later followed by The Flesheaters’ “Eyes Without a Face” continues the punk rock theme, as the punkers enter into the Resurrection Cemetery. The synth-pop band SSQ actually earns two track entries, the first is for Trash’s striptease act on the gravestone, entitled “Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die)” their other song comes a tad later. In the same cemetery one hears “Love Under Will” performed by The Jet Black Berries, which has Casey and Chuck chatting, also in the background for a brief moment when Trash grinds up against Suicide, 45 Grave’s music is heard. After the gang meets the Tarman, Tall Boys’ “Take a Walk” howls through psychobilly track, one comes to perhaps the most well-known and most popular, especially it was previously released before this film, its 45 Grave’s “Partytime (zombie version) which some called Deathrock, perhaps one of the early pioneers of the Gothic Rock scene. Then at the funeral and while barricading the place we hear the second popular track “Surfin’ Dead by The Cramps another psychobilly horror themed track. SSQ returns with their second appearance, which their track closes out the soundtrack track, but here the song is “Trash’s Theme” for obvious reasons, her sexy on-the-prowl walk. Finally, is Rooky Erickson, known for some of the oddest horror titled songs possible, presented here is a sinister song called “Burn The Flames,” complete with macabre keyboard and creepy sound effects, all there for Frank’s exit.
The Cramps – Surfin’ Dead
45 Grave – Partytime (zombie version)
TSOL – Nothing for you
The Flesheaters – Eyes Without A Face
Roky Erickson – Burn the Flames
The Damned – Dead Beat Dance
Tall Boys – Take a Walk
The Jet Black Berries – Love Under Will
SSQ – Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die)
SSQ – Trash’s Theme
For those fans that seek the a complete score or even all the tracks played that doesn’t exist just yet, some wonder if it will ever, since its 35-years later, but you’re if curious “The Trioxin Theme (Main Title)” is performed by Francis Haines, that starts after Freddy and Frank messed around with the cannisters of the dead. Then from Straw Dogs’ (previously known as The FUs) “Young, Fast Iranians”, which actually replaces “Dead Beat Dance” track, and used on the Hemdale’s 1991 release. There’s just one other song not include and that’s Norbert Schultze, “Panzer Rollen in Afrika vor” (Translated: Tanks Roll Forward in Africa) which play briefly on Ernie’s Walkman.
I think it is very obvious that one should purchase a version of this incredible horror album, not only a fantastic movie but also the music is so fitting, from the sound, to lyrics and of course the placement in the film. If one seeks a return to underground punk scene of the mid-80s then is a fine place to start. Oh, by the way 45 Grave and The Cramps music plays through the credits!
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/5.0