Return of the Living Dead Part II – Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review

Starring: James KarenThom MathewsMichael Kenworthy, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook
Written by: Ken Wiederhorn
Directed by: Ken Wiederhorn
Studio: Lorimar Film Entertainment
Distributor: Shout! Factory, Scream Factory
Original Year of Release: 1988
Run Time: 1hr, 29 minutes
Rated: R

Yes, this is the sequel/ follow up to the events that happened in the Punk Rock Zombie Comedy that had arrived just three years prior, Return of the Living Dead (1985). To my horror, I realized that I had never seen "Part II". Well, not so much a horror but the knowledge to know that sequels in the horror genre are rarely as good as the originals. Jump back to several months ago when my favorite distributor of genre movies, Shout! Factory, announced a Collector's Edition and I was ready to go back to the world of that Punk Rock Zombie Comedy.

Let's get this out of the way right up front. James Karen and Thom Mathews do not, I repeat, do not play the same roles, brothers, identical twins, or alternate universe versions of the characters they played in the 1985 original. That being said, that would have at least added something, anything, to the characters that they portray here. What we do get is two, again, dopey idiots, who unleash the undead on a small town. As an audience member, you know exactly what type of film you are going to get before they even show up. How? The Army Truck Driver, who is moving the canisters of captured zombies, is smoking weed and listening to headphones so there is no way in hell he will be aware when one canister falls off the back of his truck. Yep, the dumb people will be the end of us all. 

I wish the dumb people were only stuck in the film, however, they must have been behind the camera as well. There was no reference to the first film at all. We could call them homages, but it is as if there was no original thought for this story, the death sequences, or anything. Writer/ Director Ken Wiederhorn pulls full-on moments from the original and many aren't even the best ones (sorry guys, no nude dancing redhead in a graveyard here).

Storywise, there are many sore thumbs and characters which are either underdeveloped or have scenes missing. The staple of many of these genre pictures is the love story between the two heroic characters, the ones that have nothing to do with unearthing the dead but are forced to deal with it. Tom (Dana Ashbrook) and Lucy (Marsha Dietlein) suffer the most as they go from hating each other to having a romantic relationship in just a few minutes.

The zombie make-up and special effects (the zombie puppets) here are also subpar. It makes you wonder what Lorimar Film Entertainment spent their money on. I say that because, with the right lighting and quicker cuts, the zombies would have looked better. Hell, a little Vaseline would have made them look good. What also astounded me was the obvious references to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, which got me wondering, how much did that video cost and what did they spend on this sequel? Return of the Living Dead Part II cost 6 times what "Thriller" took to produce. Then again, John Landis (Thriller's Director) and Rick Baker (Thriller's Makeup Artist) can do a lot with a little. Thriller still looks good, by modern day comparisons, and Return looks like a bad high school production.

Now it has been well known that director Ken Wiederhorn did not have an enthusiasm for the project, despite it actually being his script. It shows on the screen. Perhaps if I cared more, I would dive into the numerous new special features that Shout! Factory has produced (always appreciated, but the main course was meh and now I just want to move on). The original Return of the Living Dead is a modern classic which captured the Punk Rock scene, Comedies of the day, and had great creature effects (the Tar Zombie easily makes all the Top 10 Zombie lists). A sequel is supposed to be as good, deliver the same thrills, and give you something completely new. None of that happens here. This is one to put on to fall asleep to.

Order the Return of the Living Dead Part II - Collector's Edition Blu-ray HERE from Shout! Factory.

Bonus Features

  • NEW 2K Scan From The Interpositive
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Actress Suzanne Snyder
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Gary Smart (Co-author Of The Complete History Of The Return Of The Living Dead) And Filmmaker Christopher Griffiths
  • NEW Back To The Dead: The Effects Of “Return Of The Living Dead Part II” – Including Interviews With Special Make-up Effects Creator Kenny Myers And Special Make-up Effects Artists Andy Schoneberg And Mike Smithson
  • NEW The Laughing Dead – An Interview With Writer/Director Ken Wiederhorn
  • NEW Undead Melodies – An Interview With Composer J. Peter Robinson
  • NEW Interview With Actor Troy Fromin
  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Ken Wiederhorn And Co-star Thor Van Lingen
  • They Won’t Stay Dead: A Look At Return Of The Living Dead Part II Including Interviews With James Karen, Thom Matthews, Brian Peck, Kenny Myers, Susan Snyder, Michael Kenworthy, And More…
  • Archival Featurette – Live From The Set
  • Archival Interviews With Ken Wiederhorn, James Karen, Thom Matthews, And Kenny Myers
  • Behind-the-scenes Footage
  • Theatrical Trailer And Teaser Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery Of Posters And Stills
  • Still Gallery Of Behind-the-scenes Stills From Makeup Effects Artists Kenny Myers And Mike Smithson


5 Total Score

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