Return of the Living Dead: Part II (1988) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!”

In this first sequel to the “Return of the Living Dead” chaos is once again brought to a small populous, thanks to military grade Trioxin gas, which is released to reanimate cadavers into a brain-hungry horde of zombies.

Brief description: Kids discover a drum which has been lost, inside is rotting corpse and traces of Trioxin gas. Once released the dead begin to rise from the grace again.

Detailed description: After dealing with a zombie outbreak in the last film, an army truck transporting drums of dangerous Trioxin gas accidentally loses on of them on route to its destination, somewhere in the town of Westvale. It is found by some kids the next day as they lark around by the river. After locking their new friend Jesse in the nearby mausoleum, two of the boys return and open a drum, releasing the mysterious gas. After a lucky escape from the mausoleum thanks to some grave robbers, Jesse runs home to get help, but he Is grounded to his room by his sister. By this point it is pretty much too late though as chaos is descending on the local populous as the dead rise from their graves to feat on brains. Even with the National guard are in the area its going to be tough, but perhaps Jesse, his big sister Lucy and her friend Tom can save the day, or at least themselves anyway, before they are turned into brain-hungry zombies.

Film Stuff: Released in 1988 this film is written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn who made his feature film directorial debut with the Nazi zombie film “Shock Waves” (1977). This 89-minute film was made with a budget of $6.2 million and can be considered a success grossing $9.2 million back at the box office. In the years after it was release it become more of a cult classic than an epic piece of film making.

The music in this film is by British composer John Peter Robinson, but like the first film there is a rock and punk soundtrack was used to accompany the film. This included the likes of Julian Cope, Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, Anthrax and Leatherwolf. While it was a good soundtrack, for me it lacked some of the punch that the first film was able to deliver.

Like the first film there are plenty of decent effects and make-up, there are still buckets of fake blood and guts on show too. The Make-up and Special effects departments on this film are rammed to the brim with a lot more people than worked on the last film, so realistically I would have been a little let down if this film didn’t deliver from an aesthetical point of view.

Cast: The main roles in this film were taken by Michael Kenworthy as Jesse, Thor Van Lingen as Billy, and Marsha Dietlein as Lucy. There were also roles for Thom Mathews, James Karen, Brian Peck, and Jonathan Terry who all appeared in the first film in the series too.

The script for this film allowed the cast to deliver some funny lines, but it lacked some of the dialogue and attention to detail that was on show in the original. For its comedic values, Karen and Mathews manage to run the show, but as they play pretty much the same kind of characters again I’s a case of “seen it before”.

Wrap up: I will be honest, I did buy this on VHS back in the day, but I did not bother getting a DVD version when mediums changed and updated. The film is OK, but it is nowhere near as good as the first film in the series. It has pretty much got the same plot, just set in a different location, with (some) new actors, with the same kind of set-up and conclusion. While the first film felt like it was aimed at the rock-and-roll fast food teenagers of the 80’s, this sequel felt more cutesy, potentially aimed at the lower end teenage market that like zombies because of their older siblings. As a massive fan of zombie films, when I watched this back in the 90’s I was let down a little. When I have returned to watch it as a grown adult for the purpose of this review, I still find myself let down after the assault on the senses that the first film brought. This film lacked originality, it lacked freshness, it lacked the level of humour, it lacked some of the references and parody moments brought in the original – worse still, it was a horror movie that lacked real horror. While the film is ok, it is just ok and is not much to write home about. Still though, it is a zombie film, and to be a true zombie film aficionado you must watch the good with bad, it is just unfortunate that this falls into the later category.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/10)


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