1985 was such a fantastic year for movies. We got to see everything from Sly Stallone facing Dolph Lundgren in the ring to some kid stealing a Delorean and traveling back in time. Those were significant moments without a doubt, but the one other movie moment that I hold dear was at the hands of Return of the Living Dead and that damn Tarman.
As readers of this site may or may not already know, I reviewed the first movie and love it. If you want to see the review just click here. I only mention this movie again because I am reviewing the Return of the Living Dead series and next up is the 1988 sequel to one of the best all time zombie films, Return of the Living Dead Part II.
It looks like our buddies Frank (James Karen) and Freddy (Thom Matthews) are making a comeback as Ed and Joey in unconnected roles from the first movie. There actually is nothing similar outside of the Trioxin 245 and what it does when you compare the first and second movie. Ed and Joey play the same types of characters in this movie as the last, kind of bumbling and goofy guys looking to make a few bucks off of the dead. So these two hole up in a mausoleum for the night as Ed works Joey into the understanding that stealing from the dead is ok, well, because they’re dead.
In a local suburb not far from the graveyard where the mausoleum is we find Jesse Wilson (Michael Kentworthy) and the local bully Billy Crowley (Thor Van Lingen) along with another boy bartering a comic so Jesse can reluctantly join their gang. The initiation does not go as planned, and Jesse decides he better run for it.
While the chase is on, the boys discover a barrel of Trioxin 245 in a local sewer drain (we saw this fall off a truck earlier because an Army private was too busy smoking a joint to notice). Billy and his sidekick decide to open the barrel and see what’s inside, releasing a gas that makes the boys sick and will eventually raise the dead.
Once again the makeup is top notch and even the zombie extras look terrific. At least a few great things carried over from the original.
The story is pretty uneventful and stereotypical. I could not think of a single point in the feature where I felt like something new was introduced or twisted to catch me off guard. At least with the last movie, things were so entertaining you honestly did not notice a lacking story or plot.
The movie from here will follow the same pretty standard formula of survival as the last installment and many other zombie flicks have. We will see additional new characters focused on like Jesse’s sister, a cable tv repair boy/man, and the doctor next store. All of these characters are overly stereotypical to the point of almost being annoying. The doctor was the only saving grace because he was sometimes funny.
An evacuation has taken place because of the chemical leak, but it seems everyone but the aforementioned folks were informed. Ed and Joey are busy trying to steal from the dead in the mausoleum and trying to reignite the character types they played in the first movie. This is cool but ultimately became annoying even to the point I was a little peeved they tried to rehash lines like “bite your tongue, boy, if you like this job” from the first movie. I get the point, but I don’t believe it worked. I will not go into the other story elements as to avoid spoiling this for anyone who might be looking to see it.
It is obvious from the get go, this movie is going for the funny ticket on top of the violence and gore that made the last one. I mean, come on; all the speaking zombie action and the aerobic zombie scene is funny, but it tends to over shadow the darkness of the original. One of the key reasons Return of the Living Dead worked so well had a lot to do with the careful mixing of horror and comedy all while keeping the story grounded, or as grounded as a movie about reanimated corpses eating brains can be.
In a lot of zombie movies, the sense of panic comes from being trapped and knowing that death is right outside clawing it’s way in. In ROTLD II, we kept the characters moving and never actually forced them to establish a place of defense or somewhere they could meet their ultimate demise.
The effects were still remarkably solid, but overall the gore seemed to be lacking. I mean yes, we did have some moments like when a zombie’s skull is punched through that were gruesome, but there weren’t enough of these.
Fans of the series have probably already stumbled through this less than perfect sequel. Personally I consider this a reimagining of the first movie as neither really have a connection outside of the chemical drums. If you have not seen this and dug the first one, give it a look. The movie pops up on Netflix instant streaming from time to time. In the off chance you have not seen the first, please do not see this one and assume the entire catalog is a loss… there are two others that rate even worse in the series.
Next up I will be reviewing Return of the Living Dead 3, which carried the most serious tone of any of the other five movies.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: if you catch yourself rolling your eyes at some idiot move or choice one of the stereotypical dummies makes.
Take a Shot: if you can spot Forrest J. Ackerman as one of the zombies. “Mr. Sci-fi” is one of the leading authorities on horror movies and also an author.
Chug a Beer: every time you see ultra fake looking lightning on screen.