Stars: James Karen, Thom Mathews, Dana Ashbrook, Marsha Dietlein, Philip Bruns, Michael Kenworthy
Writer: Ken Wiederhorn
Dir: Ken Wiederhorn
The sacred rule of any sequel is, in my book, to continue the story, respect the original, stick to what worked in the former, and, if possible, improve on the original.
Like many ’80s films, the sequel to “Return of the Living Dead” fell victim to a terrible plot device: a kid is smarter than anyone else in the damn film.
For criminy. The base-film had all the elements that actually worked: characters the audience cared about, actual funny moments, plenty of gore, and plenty of zombies, all while keeping it at an R-rated adult level. Yes, I admit some of the characters were supposed to be deadbeat, lazy, punk-rocking teens, but they were still close to being adults.
The sequel, however, decided to up the ante with the comedic elements of the former and it falls flat. While the budget seems to have been slightly elevated, the fun of the first film takes a backseat to ghetto-talking disembodied heads, sight gags, spandex, hair-gel and a little dipshit I wished would have been devoured in the first few moments I laid eyes on him.
Again, the 1980s suffered a plague of movies where children were the heroes and more intelligent than any military member facing the Cold War, understood computers better than fogeys, and always survived any peril facing them. I remember being a child during the time, wishing death on certain child characters and envying others.
I never envied this wad, Jesse Wilson, played by Kenworthy.What begins as a continuation of the first film quickly spirals into typical ’80s film. A kid is being bullied, his older sister wants to get laid, the town loser wants to lay her, there are a couple of comic relief characters (James Karen and Thom Mathews nearly identically reprise their roles from the first film), and the military is inept.
Jesse and his two bullying brats inadvertently burst one of the infamous Trioxin containers — which happens to have fallen out of a military truck — containing reanimating gas and a zombie corpse, unleashing both contents into a cemetery and into the town.
Yeah, there are some moments that are amusing (“Michael Jackson” makes an appearance late in the film), but the clichés bog this movie down and make it tedious and a by-the-numbers bore-fest. A scene in a hospital is the sole reason for the film dodging a PG-13 rating. It would have sailed through the ratings board these days. PG-13 horror is rarely worth your time. Or mine.
Romero Rules Followed: For the most part, they are all followed. However, the reanimation process mostly takes place due to the gas spurted from a drum. So, in this case, about 90%.
Gore factor: Mostly moderate until a pivotal hospital scene. Which was cool. And a strong point.
Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Waste of time
Additional comments: Andrew and I have been at odds over the quality film “Return of the Living Dead.” I absolutely embrace it, while he just says it is a big bucket of “OK.” I can point to this sequel (which includes cameos by Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” and Mitch “Shocker/”X-Files” Pileggi) as an example of when a superior idea gets warped and raped. So much promise, so little to show for it.
And I hope Andrew attacks Part III before I do.