Return of the Living Dead Part II Blu Ray Review (Scream Factory)
Return of the Living Dead Part II is a 1988 horror comedy written & directed by Ken Wiederhorn (Shock Waves, Eyes of a Stranger, Dark Tower, & Freddy’s Nightmares). It’s a sequel to the original 1985 film.& it’s followed by 3 other sequels for the Return of the Living Dead franchise. A military truck is transporting barrels of Trioxin, when one breaks loose & falls into a river without the driver (played by: Troy Fromin from Phantasm II, Monster High, Class of Nuke ‘Em High 2/3, & Saved by the Bell) noticing. A group of boys which include Jesse Wilson (played by: Michael Kenworthy from The Blob), Billy (played by: Thor Van Lingen), & Johnny (played by: Jason Hogan) go to a mausoleum in a cemetery. They find a Trioxin barrel & open it. The bullies lock up & trap Jesse in the mausoleum because he starts talking about contacting the army about the mysterious item that they all found. Grave robbers Ed (played by: James Karen from The Return of the Living Dead, The Unborn, Poltergeist, Mulholland Drive, & Wall Street) & Joey (played by: Thom Mathews from Mean Guns, The Return of the Living Dead, Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, Crazy Six, & Dangerously Close) with Brenda (played by: Suzanne Snyder from Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Night of the Creeps, Weird Science, & The Night Before) as the look out go to the cemetery to make some quick cash. They run into the terrified Jesse & he escapes from the mausoleum. It starts to rain & the Trioxin spreads across the location. Jesse comes back home & his older sister Lucy (played by: Marsha Dietlein from Only You, Rumpelstiltskin, Boiler Room, & Little Children) orders him to do homework right away. Tom (played by: Dana Ashbrook from Twin Peaks, Fire Walk with Me, Waxwork, & Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat), the cable guy arrives hours late to install their new upgrade & ends up in a situation that he didn’t expect! Ed, Joey, & Brenda are surrounded by the resurrected corpses (various roles played by: Brian Peck from Return of the Living Dead 1/3, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, & Angel 4: Undercover) of their local community. The whole town starts to get invaded by the zombies which includes Tarman (played by: Allan Trautman from The Return of the Living Dead, Dinosaurs, Muppets Tonight, & Unhappily Ever After) & no one is safe now! Those 3 end up running into Jesse, Lucy, & Tom after surviving the legion of the undead. They go to local Doc Mandel (played by: Philip Bruns from The Stunt Man, Flashdance, The Out of Towners, & Silent Night, Bloody Night) for help with all of this chaos. The military lead by the Colonel (played by: Jonathan Terry from The Return of the Living Dead, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, & Against All Odds) with dedicated soldiers like Sarge (played by: Mitch Pileggi from Shocker, The X-Files, Sons of Anarchy, Three O’Clock High, & Vampire in Brooklyn) try to make this all go away quietly without the rest of the world knowing about it. This band of unlikely heroes must face both the government & living corpses to make it out alive in this crazy battle!!!!
Return of the Living Dead Part II is one of the most misunderstood sequels in horror history! It has enough connections to the original to satisfy fans but honestly besides a few things it’s a completely different film compared to the original. If you are expecting a clone of the 1985 feature then you will most likely be pretty disappointed with this. At the time, horror comedy was a rare & barely used sub genre. It wasn’t popular at all back then. These days it’s actually gets more attention than normal horror flicks which is crazy. It doesn’t go for dark humor like most in the genre. It has a campy & slapstick vibe to it. Also, this follow up is very kids friendly & it was basically a PG-13 feature besides a few scenes. It had no nudity & the language was toned down so much in this. The lead character & villain are both played by kids. The biggest fail when it comes to this production is the marketing because it honestly didn’t know what it wanted to be & it ended up confusing everyone when it was advertised. It was great to see some familiar faces in this. A decent amount of the original cast returned for this sequel & that was a nice addition. The special effects for Return of the Living Dead Part II are top notch & it’s pure 80’s horror! That’s the highlight from this whole experience & I love the different variety of zombies here. Not as good as the first one but it also had a killer soundtrack & score. Thanks to the amazing folks at Scream Factory, it’s been resurrected for the first time on home video since VHS!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Scream Factory! This 1080p transfer in it’s original aspect ratio (1.85:1) is a new 2K scan from the original interpositive. It’s a HUGE upgrade & major improvement over all the previous home video releases. This collaboration with Warner Bros is really paying off & we are getting some great blu rays from it. It’s always been a soft looking film with the foggy style cinematography but everything shows up in great detail here. You get two different audio options for this DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track. The more generic alternative score & soundtrack that caused mass controversy from the original DVD release. The BEST part about this is definitely the original soundtrack & score being brought back after being changed due to rights issues on the previous release. I haven’t heard it since the 80s & it was awesome to revisit after all these years. It also includes English subtitles.
Let’s talk about this LOADED collector’s edition from Scream Factory! “Audio commentary” with actress Suzanne Snyder moderated by More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead producer Michael Perez. She talks about why she dyed her hair red for this role. She says she doesn’t really like horror movies or watching herself on screen. She chats about the cast from the feature. She gives her opinion on the original film. They point out the various zombies that Brian Peck played in this. She talks about her character & tells some stories about the production. They chat about the special effects. She mentions her experience working with director Ken Wiederhorn. They talk about the controversy of most of the original cast not being asked back to be in this sequel. She brings up the wrap party & that she was excited about it hitting the big screen everywhere. She chats about some of her other projects & what she thought about the final product of this sequel. She brings up doing conventions & meeting fans because of this. “Audio Commentary” # 2 with The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead author Gary Smart & filmmaker Christopher Griffiths. They talk about this sequel having a total different tone than the original & going for more of a slapstick comedy approach. They chat about the entire franchise & compare the films to each other. They bring up that various original cast members wrote their own scripts for a possible follow up. They mention all the actors that came back for this sequel. They bring up other horror franchises that had follow ups that were nothing like the original. They chat about producer Tom Fox & what he did with the rights for the series. They bring up Kenny Myers & the special effects. They talk about some connections between this & the first movie. They start talking about the zombie genre & bring up various examples. “Audio Commentary” # 3 with writer/director Ken Wiederhorn & actor Thor Van Lingen. Ken Wiederhorn says there’s so much confusion with the titles on this. Thor Van Lingen says this was his only acting role & tells the story on how he got involved in this production. Ken Wiederhorn explains how he got attached to this sequel. He brings up that his original script had nothing to do with the franchise. He mentions the restrictions on working with kids. They chat about the actors used in this feature. They say horror & comedy together was a suicide mission. They bring up that the studio didn’t know how to properly market & promote it when it was released. Ken Wiederhorn talks about being so impressed with Kenny Myers work on the original film that he hired him for this sequel without any hesitation. Thor Van Lingen chats about his experience with his zombie make up on here. They mention how the music was changed for the DVD home video release.
They mention some of the locations used in this. They talk about this film could have easily been PG-13 with a few words changed. Ken Wiederhorn brings up that the execution sequence cost $50,000 to do. This track is very scene specific & they discuss what’s in front of them most of the time. “Back to the Dead: The Effects of Return of the Living Dead Part II” is 25 minutes. It interviews effects creator Kenny Myers, effects artists Andy Schoneberg & Mike Smithson. Kenny Myers said he went to school for theatrical design originally. He chats about all the differences between the original & this follow up. They talk about it being more family friendly & comedic. They mention only 6 actors played all the zombies in the feature. They joke & talks about Myers doing the voice for one of the zombies. They say it was shot at the same location as The Fog. Kenny Myers brings up that he is disappointed that he changed the Tarman so much in this. It also has some behind the scenes footage from the set on here. They all bring up they wish it was more serious rather than funny. “The Laughing Dead” is a little over 19 minute interview with writer/director Ken Wiederhorn. He talks about not really making the films he wanted & somehow falling into the horror genre. He brings up his Meatballs 2 experience & he says his script for that had nothing to do with the first film. He mentions the rough shooting schedule & restrictions working with children. He tells a few stories about some disasters that took place during the production. He talks about the cast & crew for this feature. He says Kenny Myers originally thought he was making a joke out of his effects & didn’t realize that it going to have such a strong comedic tone to it. He brings up that the studio had no clue on how to market this sequel & they blew it. He says that he turned down all kinds of horror projects after this & decided to direct television instead. “Undead Melodies” is an almost 13 minute interview with composer J. Peter Robinson. He talks about how he got started & inspired to do music for films. He chats about his first few gigs in the industry. He brings up that he replaced someone for Return of the Living Dead Part II.He talks about his techniques & his approach for the mixed tone of the production. He tells what equipment he used for the score & the lack of time he had to finish it. “ROTLD2: Extravaganza!” is a 2 minute interview with actor Troy Fromin. He says he started out mainly doing extra roles but he really wanted to be in a horror film.
He gets pretty excited talking about his experience on this film. He mentions since he brought in so many extras he got the opportunity to play the army trucker in the beginning that starts this whole mess! “They Won’t Stay Dead: A Look at RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD II” is almost 30 minutes & it was originally featured on the More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead release. It features interviews with James Karen, Thom Matthews, Brian Peck, Kenny Myers, Susan Snyder, Michael Kenworthy, Allan Trautman, Linnea Quigley, & various cast/crew members. They mention that Dan O’Bannon & Tom Fox didn’t get along so that’s probably why he didn’t return for this sequel. They are all pretty negative about the script for this follow up. Most of the original cast mention they were supposed to be in this but out of no where Part II was done without much warning. New cast members talk about their characters in this. They bring up the special effects & Brian Peck discusses the various zombies he played here. They mention the return of Tarman & the different look compared to the original. The director & producers didn’t want to include the Michael Jackson zombie in it at first. They were bring up that Ken Wiederhorn was miserable during filming & didn’t seem like he wanted to be there. Lots of mixed feelings about the finished product of this feature. “Live from the Set” is a little over 5 minute featurette. It shows various clips. It has brief interviews with writer/director Ken Wiederhorn, actors James Karen, Thom Matthews, & special effects artists. “Vintage Interviews” is almost 3 minutes & it’s with writer/director Ken Wiederhorn, actors James Karen, Thom Matthews & effects creator Kenny Myers. It’s basically extended chats from the previous extra. “Behind the Scenes footage” is a little over 4 minutes & it focuses on the special effects plus some filming. Last but not least, you get various promotional material for the film which include “Theatrical Trailer”, “Teaser Trailer”, “TV Spots”, “Still Gallery of posters & stills”, & a “Still Gallery of Behind-the-Scenes stills from Makeup Effects artists Kenny Myers & Mike Smithson”. It also comes with a slipcover & reversible artwork. HOLY SHIT!!!! This is definitely my lead candidate for release of the year right now. It’s beyond packed with extras. You could spend all day on this blu ray & be entertained. This comes out Tuesday & it’s available everywhere. HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!