Return Of The Living Dead, Part II
Warner Home Entertainment -
1988 - 89
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In deciding whether or not to write this review myself--since I am likely to have a bias because I starred in the movie--I got responses ranging from ï¿½you canï¿½t be the one who reviews itï¿½ to ï¿½you have to be the one who reviews itï¿½. So I decided to go with the latter and attempt to be impartial. I certainly wonï¿½t tell you this is the greatest horror movie ever made, nor will I tell you that any of the acting is Academy award material. What I will tell you is that Return Of The Living Dead, Part II is just one of those little movies that has a niche out there, somewhere. I never thought that over fifteen years after the movie came out that anyone would still be talking about it, but they do. From horror film web sites to the occasional email from someone who saw this movie and found me on the internet, Return Of The Living Dead, Part II has a mini-cult following.
"That's The Club House?"
Our story starts in an unassuming suburban community--late 1980s Santa Clarita Valley for those Newhall/Saugus residents out there--in a new housing development on the outskirts of town. Jesse Wilson (Michael Kenworthy) is rummaging through his comic book collection to find one suitable to give to the neighborhood bully as a ï¿½membership feeï¿½ for ï¿½the clubï¿½. What Jesse learns the hard way is that Billy (played by yours truly with slicked back hair, horrific braces, and an embarrassingly high voice) and Johnny (Jason Hogan) are really just trying to lock him in a mausoleum. He gets away just long enough for the trio to stumble upon an Army drum in a remote storm drain that spells trouble for the rest of the movie.
After getting the snot scared out of them by a creepy face in the drum, the pair of bullies lock Jesse in the mausoleum as planned. Things donï¿½t get any better from there as grave robbers Ed (James Karen) and Joey (Thom Mathews)--both back from Return Of The Living Dead as new characters--show up and scare the hell out of him. In the meantime, Billy and Johnny have gone ahead and messed with the Army drum and let out the noxious vapors that any horror fan knows will revive all of the dead bodies in the nearby cemetery and turn them in to brain-craving monsters. Soon Ed, Joey, and Joeyï¿½s girlfriend Brenda (played by Suzanne Snyder who some may remember as Deb in Weird Science) are on the run from the brain-starved beasts.
In another part of town, Billy has converted to the undead, his dad gets chomped by ï¿½worm ladyï¿½, and mom ends up being a brain snack for Billy--a scene I get in more trouble for than any in the script. Jesse and his sister Lucy (Marsha Dietlein) team up with the cable guy (Dana Ashbrook), and their trio hooks up with the grave-robbing trio to make for a six pack of zombie dodgers. The rest of the movie is spent hiding from the walking dead, evading the army, and basically trying not to get killed. All ends up sunshine and roses is the end, but not before you get your fill of expensive zombie makeup and cheesy low-budget 80s special effects. Grab some beers and some popcorn and attempt to enjoy this eighty-nine minute brain fest.
Return Of The Living Dead, Part II is brought to your living room in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Be thankful that they bothered to do that much. For a movie that cost less end-to-end than you can get any respectable actor to even show up on the set for nowadays, Return Of The Living Dead, Part II probably made the studio about five or six dollars profit. But DVD is a powerful medium that all but demands consideration for all but the worst films. This dark zombie romp looks about as good as it is going to. Colors are basic and unremarkable, but lines are clean and the presentation makes the transition to DVD as well as can be hoped. Newer movies have looked worse, so the master must have been in acceptable shape.
The whopping digital stereo presentation is not one that will rattle your subwoofer or have you ducking from a lot of rear channel acrobatics, but the presentation is what you would expect for a title of this age and budget. The most notable audio faux pas is the alteration of the soundtrack. Web forum and discussion group alike are all in a huff over the replacement of the old soundtrack with a new--and Iï¿½ll admit almost downright goofy--audio replacement. Iï¿½m not sure when or why the decision was made to go with this change, but it is the only thing I can point to as odd. They fixed some of the minor audio goofs from the VHS and the Laserdisc, and even added an extra ï¿½brainsï¿½ from Billy when he chomps on mom. If you miss the old soundtrack, Iï¿½m told you can still access it on the French audio track.
As far as current releases go, this one does not have near the features of any of the bigger name titles. What it does have is a single trailer and a mixed commentary track. I laid down one track in California and director Ken Wiederhorn laid down one in New York on a different day. Then the DVD production people spliced them together. They did a pretty good job, too. Iï¿½m not going to criticize Ken--since he both wrote and directed this film and can say whatever he wants--but it is pretty apparent he wasnï¿½t and isnï¿½t really fond of this part of his career. I hope the parts of the DVD where I get in my two cents donï¿½t bore you to death. I tried to be informative and funny, you can let me know if I missed the mark. The menu and the rest of the disc are basic, basic, basic, but what do you want from a production of this caliber?
Return Of The Living Dead, Part II is a campy horror film with a dedicated online following. There was even an online petition to get this released on DVD. Well, the DVD is here, and itï¿½s all youï¿½re going to get. Itï¿½s not stellar, but itï¿½s not a beverage coaster either. Only real fans of the movie are going to buy it anyway, so if youï¿½re one of those go ahead and snatch it up. Drop me a line and let me know what you think.
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