Return of the Living Dead Part 2 (1998) More, sadly, to come...
Return of the Living Dead, part 2, 1988
Just pretend this movie was never made, OK?
This movie is supposed to be a sequel to the first one (a hard act to follow, though part 3 was pretty impressive), yet it bears no real relation other than some poorly executed rip-offs from it. I rented this on video over 10 years ago, and my memory was: not very good, but cool FX in parts. This has now been downgraded as of today to complete POS.
I might have been able to tolerate this movie if they hadn’t blown it and made their biggest mistake by having James Karen and Thom Mathews return for this movie. In the first one, they played co-workers who started the whole chain of events. As you will recall, neither survived the movie, either dead or undead. In this one, they play co-workers who are grave robbers, though they did such a bad job establishing what the hell they were doing in a mortuary and why, that I didn’t figure it out till one of them stole a diamond ring from a corpse. If this is supposed to be the same fictional world as the first one, that breaks all believability immediately. At the very least, they could have stuck in some half-ass line about their twin brothers disappearing 3 years ago. But no. It goes from confusing (what the...) to insulting (do they think the people who saw the first movie aren’t going to remember them) to embarrassing, to... let’s see...
This movie lost me about 75% when they repeated their exchange from the first movie: “Do you like this job?” “Like this JOB???” never mind that it was said completely out of context for the scene. From there, it had lost me 98 percent, but then when I was horrified to hear the younger one say (after, of course, they turned out to have died like in the first one) “I don’t know, I get this feeling like this has... somehow happened before... deja va...” That did it. No excuse for that. I watched (or re-watched, since I rented it before... fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me... that’s right, I take full responsibility) the remainder of the ‘film’ only for the sole purpose of jotting down all the moronic things in order to do the most efficient job of ripping the movie to shreds ina review.
This review contains some spoilers. I’ve said it before, but trust me-- you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you read this instead and skip the movie. Not to mention, the movie is so predictable, you can see everything coming before it happens practically before you hit ‘play’.
I could write 10 pages of questions raised, but I’ll stick to the most inexcusable ones.
Wait, no. Let me be generous and start with the positive points of the movie. I had to reach pretty far to come up with any, but by God I came up with some,
1. Cool hairdo on one of the 2 female leads
2. A kid, about 10, who has been completely the stereotypical stock smart little but wholesome kid up until then, gives the realistic response, yelling, “Oh, SH*T!” when a seemingly dead body turns his its head suddenly to face him.
3. the zombies do not perform aerobics (more on that later)
4. Some lead characters I wanted dead and was rooting for them to die, did die.
5. The movie is only 89 minutes long.
Here’s the questions- -and these are just the ones that immediately came to mind, a short list compared to what I could write:
Why did the two actors from the first movie appear as other characters in the sequel (looking identical to how they looked in first one) with no explanation as to why they are dead ringers for the co-workers in the original? Why do the Zombies lurch slowly and stupidly along, when in the first movie, they got around fine, even if they were missing key body parts? Why does it take two characters at least 15 seconds to decide to run when a rotten corpse comes back to life and only looks irritated when they bury a weapon in its head? Why did a character frantically screaming, “Please! Don’t leave me here! I don’t want to die!” instantly say, when a guy suddenly points a shotgun at him, “Please kill me! I deserve to die!” When a house full of about 25 of zombies are attacking everyone in the house, why, when the TV is accidental turned on, do they instantly freeze and become fascinated by an aerobics show? (please God, I prayed, don’t let them start doing the aerobics along with the instructor). Why did a kid who was dead white while sick in bed (after being exposed to the gas) look normal and flesh colored about half an hour later when he went into his death throes? Why did the kid’s mother get a completely blank look on her face when, after hugging her son, he begins to bite through her skull? And if rotted zombies are strong enough to bite clean through a person’s skull into their brain, why do they later just grab a struggling kid by his hair and shake him, then lose the fight to the kid? Who are all the characters in the film supposed to be and what is their relation to one another? (note: it is possible this was explained through some dialogue that was so boring I missed it). Why did a zombie on the roof of a convertible, canvas topped car wait till someone unrolled the window to get to them instead f tearing through, like any other self-respecting monster or killer in a horror movie does to a canvas top? Why did a female lead ask a doctor, “Is it cancer?” after the doctor looked down a guy's throat with a tongue depressor? Why do characters carry guns to shoot the zombies when it’s already been demonstrated to them over and over that bullets don’t even slow them down? Why is one zombie's voice (a more rotten one) amplified to 10 times it’s normal level, while other the other zombies sound normal (well, for zombies, anyway)?
Sadly, these are questions that will never be answered (other than the reason being that the filmmakers were all complete pinheads).
And here’s just the tip of the iceberg on continuity errors: One attacking zombie is wearing a suit that looks so clean and neat it may as well be right off the rack (after he clawed his way out of his grave) which is bad enough, but in later shots there’s graveyard mud on one of his lapels. A rotted severed head, with no lips I might add, yells--enunciating clearly- ‘get that damn screwdriver out mah head!” with its mouth barely moving. I thought the dubbed voice was supposed to be coming from one of the characters at first. Two characters announced by a doctor to be paralyzed with rigor mortis (sound familiar?) who have come out and said, “I can’t move anything below my neck!” are twitching, sitting up, and even walking seconds later.
The acting and screenplay is not just inconsistent and sloppy, it’s so horrendous that you can’t even get a laugh out of it being unintentionally amusing. It’s hard to tell if certain atrocious scenes are that way because of the bad scripting, bad editing, or bad acting-- probably a mix of all three. I feel embarrassed for James Karen, maybe the only good actor (other than Mathews, and maybe the kid) in the movie. He tries his best, but it’s a lost cause. Remember the first movie, where the zombies were consistent (and original)? Here some lumber slowly, some run, some managed to hot-wire a jeep and drive it around. In one scene, a zombie walks in and out of frame so casually that I’m convinced it was an extra who didn’t think they were shooting, looking for craft services, maybe. One of the lead actresses is so inconsistent, it’s terrible. She punches a hideously rotted zombie (who I guess knew she had no brains to eat, since he was just standing in front of her calmly) in the face, her hand goes right through leading to a disgusting, gruesome mess, and she only looks grossed out a little, saying, “Ohh, Ick!!” like she stepped on a slug. Later, a severed hand starts moving around-- no danger to anyone, it’s not attacking-- and she screams her head off. Later, there’s a scene where she’s running, freaking, screaming ‘stay away from me! Don’t touch me’ for minutes after her now-zombie boyfriend (sound familiar?) chases her into a chapel. When he tells her less than a minute later, “It’s only me.” (after 5 minutes of yelling “Brains! I want to eat your brains! Let me eat your brains!”) she just goes, “Oh, well, OK.” and allows him to bite through her skull. Also, instead of screaming in pain, she looks and sounds like she’s having an orgasm when he bites in.
The movie is also guilty of one of my pet peeves- over explaining with dialogue. Only a few examples:
1. “There's a zombie on top of the car!!” (after many shots of zombie on top of car and everyone reacting to it).
2. “We’re locking you in!” (as a character is showing being locked in with a padlock)
3. “They wouldn’t steal my car!” (said as characters are roaring off in his car). followed by “they did.”
4, ‘It’s like there’s... no people!” (during shots of clearly deserted streets)
Also, this thing is guilty of many counts of characters who act amazingly stupid, even for a horror movie. When characters do any of the following (and they do) I want them to die, (even if they’re the hero/heroines)
1. walk slowly backwards when they know sneaky monsters are all over
2. get startled when they finally see the monster and drop their weapon, making no attempt to retrieve it
3. crawl/edge backwards slowly when they are not at a dead end and could simply stand up and run like hell, with their choice of several various directions
4. Holding up a ‘live’ severed head, displaying it to all, putting their hand about a millimeter from their teeth when pointing at it, then acting all surprised when they get bitten.
And (I told you I was going to rip this to shreds) stupendously, embarrassingly bad dialogue. The guy that turns out to be the hero actually says the following seriously: “Ya did good, kid.” and “That’s one for the GOOD GUYS!!”
Also, they break one of the major rules for any self-respecting zombie movie: main characters turned into zombies never show up again, even for a “The End... Or is it?” type stinger. This includes: one of the two female leads 2. James Karen’s character 3. the hero kid’s mom.
I could break down examples of where they tried to imitate the first movie, but failed wretchedly, contrasting them, but I ain’t got all night.
Just to cap it all off, after the credits (I sat through them incredulously as the soundtrack boasted of songs by bands with names like “Manotronix” and “Leatherwolf”). there’s an ad for merchandise that manages to make the Full Moon plugs look tasteful and subtle.
After they show a sweatshirt superimposed (badly) on one of the zombies in a clip, a voice that is probably supposed to sound spooky informs you that you can buy ROTLD2 tank tops, sweatshirts, and tees, urges you to ‘join the fashion zombies!’ (wow, let me run and get my visa!) and also contains instructions on how to order so simplified that they would insult a 5 year old’s intelligence, such as “Pay attention now! First, get a piece of paper! Then, write down, carefully, the names of the items you want! Then, add the prices up! And be sure to write your full name and address so we know where to mail it to you!.” At the very end of that, there’s a sentence so badly constructed it speaks for itself (and this sort of sums up the stupidity of the whole mess): The grand finale:
THIS OFFER IS ALSO AVAILABLE ONLY AT LIMITED SELECT VIDEO RETAILERS EVERYWHERE.