Return of the Living Dead II

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Ed (James Karen) has a most reviled method of income production, as he visits the tombs of newly deceased folks, then robs whatever he can find. He’ll take rings, watches, bracelets, skulls, or any other items of value, with minimal regard for the dead. On his latest treasure hunt, he has brought in Joey (Thom Matthews) to help him score as much loot as possible, while Joey’s girlfriend Brenda (Suzanne Synder) waits in the van. A night like any other night, or at least that is what these two graverobbers think. At the same time, a young man named Jesse races out of the same tob, after hiding there from some bullies. What Ed and Joey don’t know is that those bullies stumbled upon a military barrel filled with trioxin and a decayed corpse. After the kids kick around the barrel enough, the gas begins to pour out and by turn, the trioxin fills the cemetary rows. Soon enough, the dead begin to rise and of course, this spells trouble for Ed and Joey. Even after a narrow escape from the graveyard, more problems arise. The military has traced the barrel, thanks to a phone call from Jesse, so the town has been surrounded. That means that sooner of later, the undead will catch up to them and dine on their delicious brains. Can the band of ragtag survivors manage to fend off the undead, or will they become zombies themselves?

The shelves of horror sections are laden with zombie movies, but few deserve the space, as most are weak, shameless ripoffs. The Return of the Living Dead is one deserving zombie epic of course, but what about the sequel? Return of the Living Dead Part II is often overlooked thanks to the excellent original and Mindy Clarke’s breasts in the second sequel, but without question, this is a fun, well crafted zombie adventure. I know a lot of folks dislike the slant toward humor, but camp is part of the horror landscape, so I see no reason to be up in arms. The staples of good horror are all here, solid zombie makeup, including some wicked featured zombies, over the top blood and gore, and some decent cheap scares. The humor seems to upset some genre fans, but this is not all out slapstick, not even close. The sense of dread remains intact and tension is present, we just have some moments of comic relief. I mean, where else we can see a zombified Michael Jackson take in a massive jolt of electric juice? I agree that this isn’t as good as the original, but it is not as bad as a lot of people report. Maybe there is a bit too much humor, but even if so, Return of the Living Dead Part II is a lot of fun to watch. Warner’s DVD is solid all the way around also, so for horror buffs, this disc is well worth a purchase.

Video: How does it look?

Return of the Living Dead Part II is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This treatment has some flaws, but is much better than the previous home video releases, to be sure. The main improvement here is in the subtle details, as this version seems more refined and sharper. So the small visual touches come off in smoother form, which enhances the entire visual experience. The print is in good condition, with less grain and defects than in most video editions, which is excellent news, of course. The contrast is top shape here, with accurate black levels and such, but colors do look a tad faded at times. But given the material involved, I think Warner has given us a solid visual presentation.

Audio: How does it sound?

This isn’t the type of movie that needs a dynamic audio track, so the included stereo mix is more than adequate. I’m sure the music would have sounded more immersive is a full on surround track, but the overall experience here is effective. The sound effects some across in fine form and never distort or overwhelm the other elements. You won’t notice much power, but then again this material doesn’t call for it. The dialogue is also solid in this mix, with crisp vocals and no volume issues in the least. A lot has been made of some music replacement, but the original music wasn’t much to write about home, so I won’t be that harsh. This new soundtrack subs in new synth music to replace the old, often recycled synth music. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The main supplement here is an audio commentary with director Ken Wiederhorn, who is joined by star Thor Van Lingen. Wiederhorn supplies most of the interesting comments, but Thor also has a few memorable production stories. Not the best track out there, but a decent one and a most welcome inclusion on this release. This disc also includes the film’s theatrical trailer, another welcome addition.

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