Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988) Revisited 

Posted: July 23, 2016 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
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*** This review may contain talking head spoilers ***

A mixed group of townsfolk team up to destroy the reanimated dead that have taken over their town to eat brains.

With lines that mirror and hark back to the 1985 surprise hit, it’s more of a remake despite being called part II, akin to Evil Dead 2 in relation to part one. Here three kids, find a canister which contains a Trioxin enriched body. The barrel which (literary) fell off a back of a lorry is unlocked by two of the three teens, releasing a gas which make the two bullies ill and also revives the occupants of the local grave.

Young teen lead Michael Kenworthy’s Jesse Wilson and Marsha Dietlein as Lucy Wilson are worthy of note (possibly named Wilson at a stretch to possibly link the two films with Burt Wilson from the original). Jesse who is locked up by the young bullies escapes their fate while locked up in a mausoleum. Director/writer Ken Wiederhorn offer excellent practical and make up effects, (despite continuity errors where Tarman 2’s design inexplicably changes between shots), there’s plenty of Thriller styled undead on display. Unfortunately the soundtrack (recreating the vibe of the original) was replaced due to license issues and the replacement music sadly takes away some nostalgic and complementary value.

The supporting cast are solid, if somewhat hysterically panicked. With a good mixture of horror and comedy there’s Dana Ashbrook (Twin Peaks) as Tom, notable is Suzanne Snyder as Brenda, whose dressed in her best Tiffany outfit. At one point military men wielding guns show up, one of which is actor Mitch Pileggi pre-X-Files. Memorable is Philip Bruns eccentric Doc Mandel. The excellent James Karen and Thom Mathews return as grave robbers who release Jesse from the mausoleum. They ineffect reprise similar characters from the first outing, echoing the same slow changes into zombies, at one point Mathew’s Joey even gives an acknowledging line of, “I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” and as a viewer you’ll feel the same as many of the setups give a feeling of de ja vu right down to another leathery talking female corpse.

The setting including a graveyard, contrasting suburbs and town offers enough chills as the lumber dead horde go in search of brains, at one point even breaking into a pet shop. There’s hands (reminiscent of Adams Family’s Thing and Ash of Evil Dead’s appendage), talking decapitated heads, plenty of body parts, worms coming out of faces, rotten flesh and every kind off blood guts and severed spines a horror fan could want.

As the survivors lure the zombies with carts of brains and Jesse faces off against his now dead bully there’s a satisfying conclusion including a Michael Jackson thriller style zombie thrown in just for the hoot. Wiederhorn’s offering doesn’t get under the skin as much as its predecessor nor does it have the nihilistic ending that made part one standout. Nevertheless, the special effects hold up much better than the mix of horror comedy and its still a cadaver load of zombie fun.

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