RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II
Return of the Living Dead Part II exists at almost opposing extremes to Dan OBannons aggressively cynical sense of black humour. When the film has to count among its highlights gags about everybody in a car screaming as they toss a severed hand between them like it were a hot potato, you realise just how far down into the barrel this one is reaching. The lowbrow nature of the exercise is surely indicated by the supposedly atmospheric resurrection scene where Dan OBannon overlaid the scene with loud and nasty punk music and Linnea Quigley dancing naked on a grave, Return of the Living Dead Part II offers canned music and lame gags with a zombie old lady struggling to put her glasses on and one zombie repeatedly getting stepped on as it tries to get out of the grave. There are times that the film feels only one step above Three Stooges yocks. Few zombie films of the 1980s have such cheesy looking makeup the single best effect here is a zombie that gets its torso blown off with a shotgun, although this only leads to another lame gag with the legs stumbling around trying to find the rest of the body.
James Karen and Thom Mathews reprise their roles from the first film where they were a likeable duo. Now Thom Mathews is played as a lunkhead, while James Karen spends the whole of the film gibbering in a craven performance that becomes incredibly annoying. The jocularity and humour between the two seems very forced. Mathews gets a line Its a feeling Ive got. Like weve been here before. You, me, them, but it is too cutely self-referential. Moreover, the two of them end up repeating the roles all over again scene for scene dying while still alive, rigor mortis diagnoses, even down to a repeat of the scene where Thom Matthews chases his girlfriend around a chapel begging for her brains. The dismal failure of Return of the Living Dead Part II is that it has ended up in the hands of a director, Ken Wiederhorn, who is simply not adept at comedy.
Ken Wiederhorn did make at least one good zombie film the Nazi zombie effort Shock Waves (1975). Wiederhorns other genre films are the uninspired likes of the slasher Eyes of a Stranger (1981), the summer camp/alien visitor film Meatballs Part II (1984) and the psycho-thriller A House in the Hills (1993).
The Return of the Living Dead series was subsequently continued with Brian Yuznas much better Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) and followed up during the zombie revival of the 00s with Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005) and Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave (2005).