Return of the Living Dead Part 2

Returnlivingdead2Having already talked about parts one and three of The Living Dead series, I felt that at it was high time that I got around to talking about the middle section. The original is rightfully regarded as a cult classic and the third entry in the series holds a strong sense of nostalgia, part two is a bit lackluster. Part Two feels like a simple rehash of its predecessor, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

The film opens with a military truck loaded with corpses in barrels of Trioxin being transported. As the truck transporting the Trioxin is last in line and the driver is busy getting stoned, the military doesn’t notice when a number of the barrels fall of the truck, one rolling off a bridge and landing in the river to be washed downstream. The following day three kids, Jesse Wilson (Michael Kenworthy), Billy (Thor Van Lingen) and Johnny (Jason Hogan). The trio finds the missing barrel, Jesse decides its best to leave and splits why the other two kids investigate it. Meanwhile, local grave robber Ed (James Karen) along with Joey (Thom Mathews), Eds accomplice for the night are dropped off at the cemetery by Joeys girlfriend ¬†Brenda (Suzanne Snyder), who waits in the van while they perform their duties. While Ed and Joey are busy grave robbing, Billy and Johnny manage to open the barrel of Trioxin releasing the gas which they breath in before fleeing home. The Trioxin spreads across the cemetery and is pushed down into the soil by a rainstorm. The gas spreads into the near by mausoleum where Ed and Joey are working and the pair unwitting breath in the gas. Back at home Jesse goes to see Billy after witnessing his return to his home. After seeing how sick Billy has become Jesse is able to deduce that Billy and Johnny must have opened the barrel and goes back to investigate. He finds a number on the barrel before he is attacked by this films Tar Man, but manages to escape into the cemetery just in time to see the dead rise. Joey races home and is able to call the police after tricking his sister Lucy (Marsha Dietlein) who is sitting him and the cable repair man Tom Essex (Dana Ashbrook) who is over on business. At the mausoleum Ed, Joey and Brenda all witness the dead rise and flee the cemetery. They eventually meet up with Jesse, Lucy and Tom and are able to convince them of the danger, after stealing Toms van and destroying a knocking out a telephone call cutting of Jesse’s call to the military. The newly formed group flees Jesse’s home to home of Doc Mandel (Phil Bruns) who gets caught up and comes along. The group heads the hospital in town to find the town is deserted save for the living dead and their hunger for brains. Now trapped alone in town cut off from the outside world they face the zombies alone.

So much of this film lifts heavily from its predecessor. Everything from lines of dialogue, appearance of zombies and even some of the characters personality’s/persona’s. While it’s all well done and feels more like an homage than it does a cheap cash in, Part Two lacks the same heart possessed by Part One. Which really shows badly in places.

Thom Mathews and James Karen return as different characters. I’m happy to say they still have the same dynamic and hilarious chemistry, even if they are playing almost perfect carbon copies of their characters from the first film, even dying of Trioxin and returning to life as the living dead. Both do a great job and keep the film entertaining. Ernie’s character is replaced by Doc Mandel who’s a much more comic character opposed to Ernie the Nazi in hiding.

Beyond that the rest of the film plays out very differently and has many more set changes letting you see the further reaching effects of Trioxin. The zombies are also more for laughs this time around and seem to be less intelligent at times than the zombies in the first installment.

Final thoughts, its ok. A good sequel all things considered, but it just doesn’t measure up to the original or even part three in my opinion. The only area that was improved on being the soundtrack as the only version I’ve seen featured the original score which was later replaced. I often found the main character Jesse to be boring and at times downright stupid. I would recommend this film though, but primarily to fans of the original as it is a good sequel and two zombie fans. The main draw back is it doesn’t do enough that’s different and its often easy to tell the actors aren’t having a good time making the movie. So where the first film is as close to perfection as a zombie film can get, Part Two comes off as lackluster and ham handed, 7/10.

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