Return of the Living Dead Part II has been recently released from Scream Factory. Yes, it's full of zombies, gags, gore, kids, a few stars (James Karen and Thom Matthews in totally unrelated roles) from the original film, and a young Dana Ashbrook (Bobby! from Twin Peaks). But is it good?
No. No, it's not, and I'm not sure that was ever in the film's destiny. Dan O'Bannon's 1985 punk rock opus Return of the Living Dead isn't a costume, it's A WAY OF LIFE! Return of the Living Dead Part II ... is a costume that itches and fits poorly, like those old plastic Halloween masks that obscured your vision while also poking the delicate skin around your eyes.
Yes, the original film was so good, it spawned an inbred army of sequels, starting with Return of the Living Dead Part II.
Now, some people may really like this movie, but I'm just not one of them. I do see it's value as a capsule of 1988 and practical effects, however. There's also one scene that's genuinely freaky --- a half of a zombie trying to get the main character/kid. I figured that since this film was born of an era which employed mostly practical effects, the production had hired someone who really didn't have legs.
I was right. And I was horrified and in awe.
This is one of those dissociative sideshow moments where you can't really believe what you're seeing, yet you know it to be true. I learned it by watching TV. (Or extras.) Speaking of which...
What Return of the Living Dead Part II lacks in originality --- or quality --- Scream Factory has made up for with an incredible amount of featurettes. SO many bonus features!
The film itself looks (good but could be less grainy) and sounds fine. Yes, I watched all of these featurettes, and all of them combined are at least the running time of the film, if not longer.
One of the most hilarious and illuminating things about Return of the Living Dead Part II is the cast interviews. In both new and vintage recordings, it seems that most cast and crew members knew the film was going to do badly and don't have many qualms about saying so. Special effects artist Kenny Myers, who worked on both the original 1985 film and this '88 sequel has plenty of things to say about his time on both features. You'll also learn that the production wanted to bring even more cast members from the first film on, in a blatant attempt to capitalize on the runaway success of the original.
I almost felt bad for writer/director Ken Wiederhorn (Shock Waves), and yet... he doesn't even really like horror film, which would explain a lot of things. Mainly, that he was making a comedy with horror elements. If a zombie is shot in the head in a forest, does it scream?
You could do worse, I suppose, than spending a night watching Return of the Living Dead Part II. The extras are fun, and you can definitely make a drinking game out of a few things here, like take a shot for every not-funny joke, or every time actress Suzanne Snyder gets whiny. (No, wait, don't, you'll get alcohol poisioning.)
I'm sure this film has its fans, and it's not horrible all the way through. You can watch a trailer for Return of the Living Dead Part II below and order from Scream Factory directly here.