Blu-ray Review: Return of the Living Dead Part II (Collector’s Edition)



There are times when you just don’t expect a sequel because the original ends in such a way that it seems final. Take for instance Return of the Living Dead. The somewhat sequel to Night of the Living Dead had a pretty drastic finale which won’t be spoiled here. Had the zombies been defeated? When it comes to horror films only one thing decides if the nightmare is over: box office. Although by 1985 there were two things that determined a sequel first was box office followed by VHS rental tape sales. Return of the Living Dead was a hit on both accounts and thus the world wasn’t free of reanimated corpses who were back for another serving of your brains. Return of the Living Dead Part II: Collector’s Edition brings back the gruesome shocks and twisted comedy that made the original a hit.

How do the living dead return again? Once more we’re treated to the US Army screwing up transportation of the security barrels containing zombies. This time a barrel falls off a truck and lands near a cemetery. Naturally the army doesn’t notice because the guys in the front of the truck are smoking dope on a rainy night. The next morning a young boy meets up with school kids to be initiated into their gang at the cemetery. He quickly realizes this isn’t a smart thing and escapes from them. The boys chase after him into a storm drain and discover the barrels. Being kids, they naturally can’t get a good sealed barrel not get popped open. This unleashes the horror of the undead and the gas that triggers reanimation that leads to brain eating. In a matter of hours, the zombies have risen and attacked the town will everybody be doomed like the in the first film?

Return of the Living Dead Part II has two familiar faces without them being the same characters. James Karen and Thom Mathews are now playing grave robbers so things go weird for them fast. The movie is more slapstick than horror compared to the original and this comes out when Thom gets a different outcome when he tells his girlfriend Brenda (Killer Klowns from Outer Space‘s Suzanne Snyder) that if she loves him, she’ll let him eat her brains. Dana Ashbrook (Twin Peaks) gets a major role as the teen with a little sense in surviving. Michael Kenworthy is well cast as the kid who doesn’t want to join the gang and really doesn’t want to join an undead gang.

The comedy element comes out easily when a zombie’s chopped off hand expresses its displeasure to the living. There’s plenty of head jokes. It flips the formula from the original with more of the physical humor over the horror. This gives an idea what the Three Stooges would do if they had to battle zombies instead of oysters in the soup. Return of the Living Dead Part II worked fine if you rented both films at Videorama during two for Tuesday night.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The resolution brings out the zombie body jokes in the higher resolution. The transfer brings out the creepy voyeurism angles. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. You’ll be able to hear the Robert Palmer musical joke. The movie is subtitled

Three Audio Commentaries leave no tale untold. First there’s actress Suzanne Snyder who is eager to share her memories of the film. She discusses how to work in a scene where you love interest wants to eat your brains. She was also in two episodes of Seinfeld. Commentary With Gary Smart (Co-author Of The Complete History Of The Return Of The Living Dead) and filmmaker Christopher Griffiths gets into the history. Commentary With Writer/Director Ken Wiederhorn and co-star Thor Van Lingen talks about trying to make a different film that had the same feel for fans who wanted more Living Dead mix of gore and slapstick.

Alternate Soundtrack includes an opening that sets up the film with a voiceover about what’s inside the barrels.

Back To The Dead: The Effects Of “Return Of The Living Dead Part II” (25:01) includes interviews With Special Make-up Effects Creator Kenny Myers And Special Make-up Effects Artists Andy Schoneberg And Mike Smithson. They talk about how much fun they had with the effects even though they didn’t have CGI to clean up stuff.

The Laughing Dead (19:22) interviews Writer/Director Ken Wiederhorn. He talks about going more slapstick than the original. He found himself directing Meatballs 2 even though he made the film not as Meatballs 2. He was happier knowing that he was making a sequel from the start on Living Dead.

Undead Melodies (12:48) lets composer J. Peter Robinson chime in about his techniques. He got to stretch in horror since he’s part of creating the tension.

Interview With Actor Troy Fromin (2:10) has him talk about how he was the army truck driver smoking a joint.

They Won’t Stay Dead: A Look At Return Of The Living Dead Part II (29:45) includes interviews With James Karen, Thom Matthews, Brian Peck, Kenny Myers, Susan Snyder, Michael Kenworthy, And More… William Stout swore he’d sue if they used his original zombie designs in the sequel. There’s some animosity and trash talking between the folks.

Archival Featurette – Live From The Set (5:35) has a joke being that the news crew has found an empty set. The director says he wants this to be the Police Academy of horror films. Thom is happy that he gets to eat his girlfriend’s brains this time.

Archival Interviews (2:36) with Ken Wiederhorn, James Karen, Thom Matthews, And Kenny Myers. Ken talks about it being funny and scary.

Behind-the-scenes Footage (4:14) is how they got the zombie actors screen ready for the big truck scene.

Theatrical Trailer And Teaser Trailer (1:44) has the deadly experiment turned into a freak accident. They make it less comedic until the last shot.

TV Spots (2:10) gets things a little less gory on the screen.

Still Gallery Of Posters And Stills (1:46) is how they promoted the return around the globe.

Still Gallery Of Behind-the-scenes Stills From Makeup Effects Artists Kenny Myers And Mike Smithson (5:59) shows you how the heads were made.

Scream Factory presents Return of the Living Dead Part II: Collector’s Edition. Directed by Ken Wiederhorn. Screenplay by: Ken Wiederhorn. Starring: James Karen, Thom Mathews, Dana Ashbrook, Marsha Dietlein, Phil Bruns & Michael Kenworthy. Rated: R. Running Time: 89 minutes. Released: August 7, 2018.

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