Wednesday, October 5, 2022

#2,828. Return of the Living Dead, Part II (1988)


Not so much a sequel to 1985’s Return of the Living Dead as it is a film set in the same universe, Return of the Living Dead Part II once again stars James Karen and Thom Mathews, only this time around they’re playing two completely different characters: Ed (Karen) and Joey (Mathews), a pair of grave-robbers who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Earlier in the day, pre-teen Jesse (Michael Kenworthy) was trying to give neighborhood bullies Billy (Thor Van LIngen) and Johnny (Jason Hogan) the slip when he stumbled upon an unopened barrel of Trioxin, a chemical that brings the dead back to life. Fearing the worst, Jesse runs home and attempts to contact the military. He even warns his sister Lucy (Marsha Dietlein) and the cable repair man Tom (Dana Ashbrook) that danger is afoot.

Billy and Johnny, however, are curious, and open the barrel, releasing the Trioxin into the air. The fumes drift into a nearby cemetery, where Ed, Joey, and Joey’s girlfriend Brenda (Suzanne Snyder), are busy collecting body parts. All at once, the dead are alive again, looking for fresh brains to snack on, and it’s up to Jesse, Lucy, Tom, and their neighbor Dr. Mandel (Phil Bruns) to find a way to stop the zombie onslaught.

Writer / director Ken Wiederhorn favors comedy over scares throughout Return of the Living Dead Part II, with both James Karen (as the incredibly nervous Ed) and Phil Bruns (as the often clueless Doc Mandel) generating most of the laughs. Not to be outdone, the zombies also get in on the fun; the Tar Man from the original Return of the Living Dead (once again played by Allan Trautman) makes a brief appearance here as well, though it’s the severed head with the southern drawl (“Get that damn screwdriver out of my head!”) and the Michael Jackson zombie (who shows up right at the end) that steal the show.

In addition, Return of the Living Dead Part II boasts a handful of exciting sequences, culminating with a finale set at the local power plant that, despite a few sub-par special effects, ends the movie on a high note.

Those who enjoyed Return of the Living Dead will find plenty to like about this sequel, and while it may not deliver as many scares as the original, it’s a worthy follow-up all the same.
Rating: 8 out of 10

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