I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the two best non-performance “punk rock” movies of the 1980s — Repo Man and The Return of the Living Dead — were genre films that premiered as the scene had begun to wane.
They’re both great films (with exceptional soundtracks), but while I’ve never had any problems with making time for Repo Man, my viewings of The Return of the Living Dead were limited to once every five years or so. It’s easy to digest apocalyptic themes when wrapped in absurdity, less so when they’re in service to a comedy of miscalculations blacker than a coal miner’s lung.
As such, The Return of the Living Dead is the most effective portrayal of doomsday in an era filled with (largely bombastic and self-important) apocalyptic scenarios. Once that first gear slips, that initial fuck-up occurs, neither good intentions nor bold action can halt the downward spiral. In fact, they only make things worse.
That’s where the true terror of the film lies, not in the fairly honky-tonk and low-budget visual scares, but in the realization that the final kiss-off has been determined by circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but a nervous giggle…and a pretty incredible punk soundtrack.
Recommended listening: The Damned – Dead Beat Dance (from The Return Of The Living Dead OST, 1985)
I try to avoid using tracks that have been featured in previous Halloween Countdowns, but:
- It’s a fantastic song by fantastic band.
- The Cramps and 45 Grave have already been spotlighted this month.
- While it amuses me to no end that Stacey Q (as a member of SSQ) has two contributions on the soundtrack, I’m not cruel enough to inflict either of them upon you.