Return of the Living Dead 2 Directed By Ken Wiederhorn, Starring James "Pathmark" Karen (1988).
Reviewed By Michael Hauss
The movie sucks, the end... If only it was as simple as that. I was eating my Frosted Flakes this morning when it dawned on me that the film I viewed the night before RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD: PART 2 was listed in the index of Chas Balum' s book More Gore Score, and that made it game to be reviewed for this blog. The late great Chas gave the movie a "Dog" rating in the book and only two out of ten on the Gore scale.
|a recent example that got the dreaded Bow Wow rating|
I had not seen this film in like 25 years and remembered absolutely nothing about the film, so I had bought it and prepared for a 80's sex, drugs, rock n roll and zombies mix, just like the original RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD had delivered on. Well guess what, this movie delivered on virtually none of those, no nudity to speak of, no drugs, some Rock n roll, (but not as good as in the first film) and worse yet the zombies were not frightening at all and looked lame. Why, oh why hadn't I listened to ole Chas and just avoided this mess?
|maybe you got conned by this delightfully wacky zombie cartoon?|
An army transport is carrying canisters of the Toxin gas from the first film, three canisters fall off the back of the truck and one ends up in a stream and eventually in a storm drain where it's discovered by three boys lead by a bully named Billy (Thor Van Lingen) and the hero of our shitty little flick Jessie (Michael Kenworthy). Jessie wants no part of the army canisters and urges the other two boys to call the army, whose contact number is etched on the canister, Billy threatens to pummel Jessie if he does, the boys see a monstrous face looking out from the canister and flee, but that does not deter Billy and his other friend from returning and opening the canister and unleashing the toxic gas. The gas overtakes the two boys and spreads into a nearby cemetery, bringing the dead back to life. Two grave robbers Joey (Thom Matthews) and Ed (James Karen) are trapped in the graveyard surrounded by the zombies, Joey's girlfriend Brenda (Suzanne Snyder) , who was waiting for Joey, (in their van down by the river, only kidding) outside the cemetery is also caught up in the chaos, as the undead are calling out for "Brains" to snack on. The trio escape and make it to the house where the pugnacious little tyke Jessie lives, who is being babysat by his sister, as their parents are away. A cable repairman named Tom is also at the house when the trio arrive looking for help and a telephone to call the police. The military has quarantined the town and evacuated most of the populace, but forgot to make it to the new home construction site, where Jessie's family lives and also the bully Billy's family, Billy has become sick from breathing the gas and has died and came back to life hungry for Brains!
|Oh man I'm so fried, I hope I don't fail my drug test|
Ed, Joey and Brenda steal the cable guys van and crash it into a telephone pole, thus cutting phone service off. The group which includes Joey, Ed, Brenda, Lucy, Jessie and Tom, make it to the house of a local physician, where they drive off in his vintage car and drive around town and come to realize that the town has been evacuated and they are the only non-dead living humans in the vicinity. The group eventually comes up with a plan to get some brains from a local meat packing plant and to throw it out from the back of a truck, getting the zombies to follow them to a power station and there they set the trap to electrocute them.
|Oh Shit! Our checks bounced?|
So here's the problem, or problems I should say, the film has a young boy as the lead hero and the film quite frankly is really a PG-13 film which somehow got an R rating, I'm guessing for the zombie who has his body cut in two and walks around trying to reattach itself. This film feels more like a kids adventure film along the lines of GOONIES or the other rash of kids-horror films that flourished in that time frame. The film has no nudity and no adult situations, no real Gore to speak of and a terrible script and the zombies were generic as hell, not menacing, just comedic fuck nuts. The first film was a nihilistic affair that had the military as somewhat competent beings, who dropped a bomb on the whole fucked up area, where in this film the military are caricatures, and they only quarantine the town, blocking off entrance and escape routes, leaving the zombie apocalypse to be defeated by young people and not the incompetent army. Worse of all is that Thom Mathews and James Karen are totally wasted in their roles and really are just playing the same characters as from the first film but slightly different. Hell, even the Joey character says at one point in the film that he felt as if he'd already lived that moment once before.
|Are you implying that Tarman had too much plastic surgery?|
Karen and Matthews are still great together and comedic wise make an entertaining pair, but the kid hero in this film is taxing and his acting ability is severely limited, why not let Matthews and Karen share the lead and make this a film for adults instead of kids. Another annoying thing about this film is that many of the characters scream or shout their lines during the zombie purge and this really cluster fucks up some scenes..This movie is one of those films where the comedy is flat and lackluster and takes the horrific edge off the zombies who can talk, drive vehicles and do other basic functions. You know you're fucked when just a few minutes into a film, it already does some douche bag thing to fuckup any believability, this being as the film starts and a group of army trucks are transporting the toxic gas and the driver of this dangerous gas is listening to rock n roll with head phones on and smoking a joint, and to top it all off, the canisters of gas are hardly even held in by a shitty little strap.
|Special effects provided by craft service Bologna and Creeple Peeple maker|
The director of this film Ken Wiederhorn has 12 directorial credits including the fine horror film SHOCK WAVES(1977, USA), the fun Animal House rip off KING FRAT (1979, USA), the sleazy slasher film EYES OF THE STRANGER (1981, USA) and the fucknuttidly bad film MEATBALLS 2 (1984, USA). Thom Matthews has only 35 acting credits, including turns in the exploitation films JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13Th, PART VI (1986, USA), ALIEN FROM L.A. (1988, USA) and HEAT SEEKER (1995, USA). James Karen is still active today and currently has 199 credits on his acting resume which includes many mainstream and also some exploitation films that includes INVADERS FROM MARS (1986, USA), THE WILLIES (1990, USA) and FUTURE SHOCK (1994, USA). The actress Suzanne Snyder who plays Brenda, is best remembered for her role of Debbie Stone in the classic KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988, USA)
So, the next time you read a review by the late great Chas Balun and he calls it a Dog, you had better damn well listen to his advice, and don't go barking up the wrong tree.