The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) “They’re back from the grave. And ready to party!” Nah, not The Ramones (too soon? Not soon enough?).

Instead, it’s the zombies in this classic 80s horror-comedy, featuring nudies, nose rings, and tunes from The Damned and The Cramps in equal measure. If you haven’t come across this bad boy yet, looks like you just got some Saturday night plans – and you can watch the whole film for free below.

Simply scroll to the bottom of the page to watch Return of the Living Dead in full.

Zombies… Because SCIENCE

Don’t you hate it when you accidentally burst open a barrel of morbidly toxic gas? And ain’t it the pits when that gas came from a 1960’s chemical experiment gone wrong, the very same that inspired the granddaddy of all zombie flicks, Night of the Living Dead (1968)?

It only takes five minutes for Return of the Living Dead to name-check the genre’s big one (Night of the Living Dead), and unfortunately for Freddy (Thom Matthews), a loveable bumpkin who just landed a job at a medical supply warehouse, his new boss Frank (James Karen) accidentally unleashes said gas causing, you know, a zombie uprising of a magnitude 1985 has never seen before.

While Freddy, Frank, and the warehouse chairman Burt (Clu Gulager) run off to the mortuary to dismember and burn the first walking cadaver, Freddy’s girlfriend Tina (Beverly Randolph) arrives at the warehouse to pick Freddy up with their roaming gang of punk friends (with names like Spider, Trash, Scuz, and Suicide. UP THE 80Z PUNX!). She searches the basement, only to be ambushed by Tarman, a corpse that the original crew thought dissolved.

tarman Return of the living dead


Tarman is arguably one of the more lovable and memorable zombies from the zombie canon – he’s right up there with ‘Bub’ from ‘Day of the Dead’. Tarman is the opposite to Bub – where Bub is confused and trying to deal with traces of his human memories, Tarman knows exactly what he wants, “Braaaaiiins”, and he is decisive in trying to get it.

Back at the mortuary, the burning zombie causes more toxic gas to be released in the air (that’s just science, y’all) which brings about a toxic rainfall. The punk gang runs for cover in the warehouse and saves Tina in the nick of time. Just when you thought your horror chemistry lesson was over—let me throw this one at you: toxic rain + cemetery of corpses = punky zombie chaos and slapstick.

The Heir to Zombie Royalty

Return of the Living Dead has a rich pedigree and actually stems from the original Night of the Living Dead via the connection of John Russo, who was the original novelist of the Return of the Living Dead (1977), and was also the screenwriter of the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead classic along with George A. Romero. Plus, he’s the first ghoul stabbed in the head.

Once director Dan O’Bannon was tossed the Return of the Living Dead project, he completely rewrote the story to differentiate it from Romero’s films — although John Russo retains a story writer credit for originating the project.

  • Fun fact: it was Russo who retained the rights after Night of the Living Dead to any title containing “Living Dead.” Romero had to ditch the phrase in his subsequent films: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, etc.

You can thank O’Bannon’s hand for two things: all the jokes and all the boobies, and this film is packed with both. Romero just wouldn’t go for that (aside from the barebacked woman ghoul in the original 1968 film). And listen up, zombie-o-philes: it’s this film that initiated the concept of zombies eating brains instead of just human flesh. So the next time you throw on that trite graphic tee (a cereal box labeled “Brains Flakes,” a zombie offering a sweetheart a valentine labeled, “Roses Are Brains, Brains are Brains,” I could go on all day…), now you know which flick to thank.

Fun, Fun, Fun Till Her Daddy Takes Her Lower Half Away

The best part about Return of the Living Dead is that it does what so many zombie films have an odd, dignified block about: it has fun. Naked punk chicks posing in a cemetery? Studying the severed upper half of a female zombie (I see you, Bicycle Girl from The Walking Dead)? Punks on punks on punks? . This film has them all. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, and this one checks off all of your horror jollies one by one. As for explaining your (and my) draw to pairing horror with a certain sexiness, that’s for another long, drawn-out, and expensive therapy session some other time.

The film was a critical success and performed moderately well at the box office. It later spawned various sequels, and pretty much gave birth to the ‘zombie comedy’ (zom-com) niche. Shaun of the Dead just wouldn’t have been the same without this film.

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Soundtrack for ‘Return of the Living Dead’