You know, a lot of times when I watch a sequel, I know it probably won’t be as good as the original but I at least keep an open mind about it. When it comes to today’s movie, this is one of the rare times where I absolutely hated the sequel. Idon’t honestly know why but I just never really liked it and every time it would come on TV, I would generally switch the channel. So if I hated this movie so much, why would I get it on DVD, you ask? Well, I tend to be a glutton for punishment at times, and also a bit of a completionist. So let’s see if maybe time has changed my view of today’s movie, Return Of The Living Dead: Part II.
The plot: In 1969, a chemical company was contracted by the US Army to conduct some experiments with a chemical called 245-Trioxin but it was determined to be too dangerous and all of the chemical was supposedly destroyed. In 1988, a military convoy is transporting several drums through a town but some of the drums accidentally fall off the back of one of the trucks and fall into a nearby river. The next day, a young boy named Jesse Wilson gives two bullies, Billy and Johnny a comic book and they decide to initiate Jesse into their club, despite his protests that he doesn’t want to join. They take Jesse to their clubhouse, which is a mausoleum inside a cemetery but when the try to force Jesse inside, he manages to get away from them and runs out of the cemetery. Billy and Johnny find Jesse hiding in a storm drain but as Billy grabs Jesse, Johnny finds one of the drums from the truck. The three kids examine it and when Billy opens the domed cover, they are scared to find a body inside the drum. Jesse says it belongs to the army and should let them know about it but Billy and Johnny lock him inside the mausoleum before heading back to open the drum. Meanwhile, Ed, Joey, and Brenda arrive at the graveyard, where Ed has hired Joey to help him rob some of the graves while Brenda waits in the van. Ed and Joey enter the mausoleum and Jesse is able to get out, with Ed yelling at him as he does. Jesse returns home and tries to sneak past his sister Lucy as she is exercising but she sees him and tells him that their mom left him a list of things to do and the first one of them is his homework so she sends him upstairs to do it. Meanwhile, Billy and Johnny continue to mess around with the drum and when Billy pushes some buttons on a control panel, he ends up venting the gas from the drum, which makes them sick. The gas seeps across the ground of the cemetery like a thick fog as it suddenly starts to rain. Inside the mausoleum, Joey is starting to have second thoughs about helping Ed when he notices the gas but Ed merely passes it off as swamp gas. Meanwhile, Col. Glover arrives at an area where he sees two men in hazmat suits examining the other containers that had fallen off the truck for leaks and worries that they might have another situation on their hands. Back at his house, Jesse sees Billy and Johnny returning to the neighborhood and goes to sneak out while his sister is on the phone but just as he reaches the door, the doorbell rings. Jesse hides while Lucy answers the door to reveal Tom Essex, who is there to install their cable. Tom recognizes Lucy from school and attempts to flirt with her and while they are distracted, Jesse is able to sneak out. Jesse goes to Billy’s house and convinces his mom to let him see Billy, who she says is sick. When Jesse gets to Billy’s room, he asks what happened and Billy tells Jesse not to tell anyone. Jesse then goes to the storm drain and, wearing an face mask and safety goggles to protect himself, writes down the number on the side of the drum. As he is about to leave, he sees the Tarman, which had escaped from the drum, and he quickly runs as it calls out that it wants his brains. Jesse escapes the Tarman but as he makes his way through the cemetery, he sees a hand coming out of the ground and continues running. Meanwhile, Brenda gets tired of waiting and gets out of the van to find Ed and Joey but she encounters some zombies and manages to punch one in the face, crushing it. Inside the mausoleum, Ed and Joey are taking a break, with Ed starting to cough and complain of chills, when the corpse next to Ed suddenly raises from it’s tomb. Joey bashes it in the head with a crowbar but when that doesn’t kill it, the two quickly run, running into Brenda as they try to escape the cemetery. Jesse runs back home and tries to explain what happened to Lucy but she is angry at his sneaking out and takes him to his room, then ties the door knob to the banister so he can’t get out. Jesse sets off a smoke barn to trigger the smoke detector and when Lucy opens the door, he quickly runs into their parents room to use the phone. Lucy asks Tom to help her and he goes to get some tools from his van but Ed, Joey, and Brenda steal his van as he walks back inside. As they are arguing over where to go, they end up hitting one of the zombies and knocking out the phone lines, just as Jesse got through to Glover. As they get out, they see the zombie eat the brains of one of the neighbors that had gone to check on her and they run for it, following Tom as he goes back to the house to call for help. When they are all inside the house, Joey starts to feel sick as well just as the severed head inside the bag Ed is carrying starts moving. Everyone screams and Tom stabs the head with a screwdriver and throws it into a closet. When Jesse is attacked by another zombie, Tom and Lucy save him and push a china cabinet against the door. Jesse recommends that they head to Dr. Mandel’s house, as he has a car, and they all head out while Tom stays behind to try and fend off the zombies when they break into the house. When one of the zombies attacks Tom, he is able to get away when the zombie is distracted by Lucy’s aerobic video. Meanwhile, Billy’s mom tries calling the hospital but can’t due to the phones being dead so she yells for her husband but finds him missing. When she goes outside to find him, she sees a group of zombies feeding on his brains and she quickly runs inside and hugs Billy, who had gotten out of bed, but Billy has turned into a zombie and bites into her head. The group make their way to Mandel’s house and break into his garage and as they try to get the keys to the car from him, more zombies start to attack the house. Taking Dr. Mandel with them, they all pile into his car and burst out of his garage and make their way out of the neighborhood but as they do, Jesse sees Billy is part of the undead mob. The make their way to the emergency room to try and find help but find it deserted. Mandel begins examining Ed and Joey while Jesse, Lucy, and Tom go try to find help. As they make their way through town, they notice it is completely deserted, even the police station. Escaping another mob of zombies, Lucy directs Tom towards her grandparents house and they head inside, where Lucy grabs some guns from the cabinet for her and Tom, while Jesse grabs a pistol for himself. They return to the hospital and Mandel shows them that Ed and Joey are essentially dead and recommends containing them. Meanwhile, Jesse sneaks off and heads down to the lower levels where the communications room is but is attacked by a zombie. When he shoots it, the sound attracts Lucy and Tom and they go down to help him but are unable to kill it, despite Lucy blowing it in half with a shotgun, so they head back upstairs. Brenda grabs Joey and tries to leave, with Ed going with them and steals Mandel’s car but they are stopped by a group of soldiers, who were there to evacuate the town. As Brenda tries to explain what is going on, Ed dies but comes back as a zombie and kills one of the soldiers and the other soldiers leave, as does Brenda and Joey while Ed continues to feed. Joey transforms in the car and tries to attack Brenda but she escapes and runs into a church. Joey follows her and chases her around before she falls and finally lets Joey eat her brains. Meanwhile, Tom and the others grab an ambulance to try and get out of town but along the way, they see the zombies attacking and killing the animals in a pet store and Tom hots one of the zombies with the ambulance, sending it into a lighted sign which electrocutes it and actually kills the zombie. As they continue out of town, they find the bridge blocked off with razor wire and the army on the other side starts firing at them. As they try to figure out their next move, Jesse tries to call for help on the ambulances CB but they only get a zombie that tries to trick them into coming to the hospital. Tom heads to a meat packing plant and Lucy, Mandel, and Tom head inside to begin grabbing the cow brains and load them onto a truck while Jesse is to stand watch outside. When Jesse hears a car driving around, he goes to flag it down but runs when he sees it is a bunch of zombies driving it. As he runs from the zombies, he is rescued by Tom, who chastises him for running off and says they have to work together in order to survive. As Tom drives the truck, Mandel and Jesse start tossing the cow brains out into the street, luring the zombies towards the power plant. When they reach the plant, Tom shuts the security gate, then turns the power off so the can set their trap to kill the zombies. Jesse and Lucy begin spreading brains around on the wet ground while Tom rigs the power lines from the nearby junction box to electrocute the puddles in the ground. Billy climbs over the fence and opens the gate, allowing the zombies to enter the ground and Jesse, Lucy, and Tom are forced to hide in the back of the truck. Tom has Jesse slide out the window over the truck cab and start the truck, having him drive towards the plant so he can tell Mandel to turn on the power. As Jesse drives to the building, he sees Billy and he hits him with the truck before crashing through the wall. Jesse gets out of the truck but is attacked by Billy, who tries to kill him but Jesse stabs Billy through the mouth with a screwdriver and knocks him off the railing. Back outside, the zombies are starting to break into the truck and Lucy tells Tom that she remembers him from school and the two start to kiss. Jesse quickly heads upstairs and turns on the power, electrocuting the zombies outside. Billy reappears and tries to kill Jesse again, just as one of the transformers crashes down from the roof. Mandel, who had been hiding inside the building, distracts Billy, allowing Jesse to shove him into the transformer and electrocute him. As Jesse, Lucy, Tom, and Mandel leave the power plant, the soldiers arrive and begin using flamethrowers to destroy the zombie’s bodies.
Return Of The Living Dead: Part II was completely panned by the critics, holding a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. There isn’t a critical consensus on the site, but the critics all seem to feel like this movie tried to reuse the same elements that made the first movie so popular, and failed miserably. James Karen and Thom Mathews returned in this movie, playing characters that were almost exactly like the characters they played in the first movie, and would have several lines that were just like their lines in the first movie or would make subtle references to what happened in it. The movie was a small hit at the box office, earning $9.2 million off of a $6.2 million budget.
Well, this movie still annoys me but it wasn’t entirely as bad as I used to think. The acting was ok, with Michael Kenworthy doing a good job as Jesse. James Karen and Thom Mathews were pretty funny as Ed and Joey but everyone else was kind of bland. The story was honestly unoriginal and really felt stupid several times. There were also several silly moments in the movie that were just gratuitous, such as the Michael Jackson zombie that was electrocuted at the end of the movie, which was a blatant reference to “Thriller”. The special effects were pretty good and honestly the only real redeeming part of this movie. All in all, some people might like it but I am honestly completely let down by this movie.
Rating: 2 out of 5