Return of the Living Dead 2 (1988)
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
The dead rise from the grave again but this time they make asses out of themselves. Who put all that crack in Jim Wiederhorn's (writer/director) pipe?
Wow! I never expected the follow up to the way kool “Return Of The Living Dead” to be as good as the original, but I didn’t see this cinematic shit sandwich coming. Who approved this script? The Zucker Brothers?
This tepid sequel fails every “Arrow” horror test in the book. First off, it slaps in a freakin' annoying, precocious, smart-assed brat as the lead. When will they learn that kids in horror films don’t work unless you’re willing to kill them off! Since 90 percent of genre flicks out there don’t believe in off-ing kids, I didn’t feel an ounce of tension with respect to this pint-sized smart aleck. I knew he would always prevail! Kind of defeats the purpose. The film also slaps two more kids in there for good measure. Thanks! Is this a horror film or a freakin' kindergarten? Test #1…FAILED!
The original did a great job at balancing laughs and scares. That’s because its humor was circumstantial and had a mean streak to it which didn’t upset the balance of the film. This sequel goes the total opposite way and resorts to “baby level” sight gags in a pathetic attempt to extract a few chuckles out of us. It didn’t work on my pointy ass. The massive cemetery resurrection sequence, for example, made me want to hurl like a crack whore in need of a fix. It’s filled with zombie pratfalls, zombies yawning, zombies stepping on other zombies' hands…WTF is going on here? Is this “Sesame Street” or a horror film? Even a zombie “Michael Jackson” eventually makes an appearance (a nod to “Thriller”)! NOT FUNNY! I wanted to hit the stop button right there. I guess that’s what happens when you put the director of “Meatballs 2” at the helm of a horror movie Test #2…FAILED!
The only thing that kept me watching was the presence of the kool Thom Mathews (Joey) and the funny James Karen (Ed). They made a great comic duo in the original and here, they play different characters but with the same tight chemistry they previously showcased. Their return offers us a few sly references to the first film and Karen, in particular, is hilarious.
But overall, "Return Of The Living Dead 2" is a huge letdown, especially compared to the groovy first installment. Everything the original succeeded in doing, this one fails at and then some. To add insult to injury, the Zombies aren’t scary (they look like "Muppet Show" rejects), the film has its share of plot holes (you're trying to tell me that Joey’s girl waited in the car for all that time…what a dumb broad!) and the method used to defeat the un-dead in the end is just flat out idiotic. No edge, no scares, just a lot of failed “yuck yuck” jokes. This one should’ve stayed dead.
Some brain snacking, severed heads and Muppet zombies that look way too clean to frighten anybody but Kermit the Frog. Whatever, too tame for me.
Michael Kenworthy (Jesse) is just plain irritating as the kid. He gave me one more reason to NEVER have children. Marsha Dietlin (Lucy) is kinda cute in an 80’s bimbo kind of way but her comic timing is so "off", especially set against Mathews and Karen. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: Thom Mathews (Joey) is the “Paul Newman” of horror. I’m a huge fan and don’t get why he doesn’t do more genre films. Here, he gives another solid performance. James Karen (Ed) cracked my ass up, he’s a delight to watch. Thor Van Lingen (Billy) is a kid and yes, he tested my nerves. Suzanne Snyder’s (Brenda) bitchy performance made me reach for the mute button on more than one occasion. Dana Ashbrook (Tom) of “Twin Peaks” fame holds his own and comes out of this wreck looking good.
T & A
What do you mean no tit shot? All we get is Suzanne Snyder hopping around, doing aerobics. Ouuuu, I’m freaking excited! Where’s Linnea Quigley when you need her?
Wiederhorn does succeed in giving the film a somewhat polished look but he’s from the “point and shoot” school of directing and that made the film kind of boring to look at. Ho-hum, stick to comedies, dude.
Some safe 80’s songs and a bland score. I only smiled when I heard that classic “Zombie Theme” from the first one pop up.
This sequel is a watered down version of the original "Return Of The Living Dead". If you have a kid sister who you want to entertain for a few hours while you play doctor with that tramp you picked up at your local Sex Shop, I recommend you slap this flick into the VCR. If you’re a mature horror fan looking for a solid zombie fix, just rent the first one again. This sequel is a massive waste of time and it can definitely kiss my white arse!
Thom Matthews played "Michael Mazovick" in an episode of ER called "And Baby Makes Two". He’s mostly known for his portrayal of Tommy Jarvis in "Friday The 13th: Part 6".