31 October 2012


Thirteen Things about Return of the Living Dead Part II

13. Does anyone else look at the title and think that calling something "Part II" of the "Return" is redundant? . . . No one? . . . Wait, really? No one???

But it's also true that Return of the Living Dead Part II is the most accurate title for a movie that was compelled to be the sequel to another movie called Return of the Living Dead. The real debate is whether the first flick merits its own title when (as far as I can tell) its own zombies have no predecessors in their own canon. But that's not a question I'll be settling any time soon.

12. I don't like watching sequels out of chronological order, but when I saw this one was about to start on Cinemax, I made it an exception for two reasons: I didn't want Burial Grounds month to come and go without even one review of a Horror movie with a significant cemetery; and I was betting that this would be the kind of thoughtlessly produced sequel with only the most superficial connections to the original, anyway.

Well, yes and no . . .

11. For instance, I had no idea what Thom Mathews's character meant when he said to James Karen's character, "It's like we've been here before! You! Me! Them!!!" If I had seen the first movie, I would have known that these two actors had "been there before," playing the exact same character types with a virtually identical relationship, but with different names, and that this line was a meta moment which had been made to order. (And now that I know the facts, here's a belated "LOL!")

10. That aside, everything you need to know about the toxic chemical Trioxin, which was (apparently) instrumental in the first movie, is related in a voice-over at the beginning of this one. A really cheap storytelling device that nonetheless managed to hook me with its pure 80s paranoia about the government keeping secrets.

9. What nearly made me give up, though, was all the screaming. Or should I say, the whinging? I seriously think the director deliberately cast the auditioners with the most annoying voices and instructed them to squeal.

Even "over the top" is a mark that can be missed, and a couple of actors miss it by a mile.

8. And I confess that I did my own share of screaming. There is a review blog called Zombies Don't Run that I used to read, and I lost count of how many times I yelled its name at the screen. =P

7. For all that, it's hard to dismiss a movie with dialogue that includes lines like . . .

"Do you want to die? . . . Okay, they seem to like brains, so maybe they'll leave you alone!"

LOL! That's the little boy Jesse trying to get his older sister to get moving. He succeeds, of course. Nice one, kid! And nicely delivered, in a normal tone of voice. =)

6. I have to say that I'm all for children in Horror, even if they end up making some movies cornier than they would otherwise be. I mean, how else to introduce the next generation to the best genre in cinema? Return of the Living Dead Part II is a prime gateway movie, not just because it is so cartoonish but also because the main protagonist is a little boy. Jesse's development from bullied nerd (and insulted younger brother) to zombie-slaying hero is the thread that holds the entire movie together.

That's why it was personally frustrating for me to learn that Return of the Living Dead Part II received an R rating, which effectively kept out the very viewers who would have got the most out of it. =(

5. But my favourite character, if only for the fact that he's not a screamer, is the middle aged Doctor Mandel. He is so incredibly blase about the fact that they are all in danger from zombies. While I ordinarily don't like characters who hinder their own rescues because they're slow to get what's going on, I have to like Doctor Mandel, because he does get what's going on. He just doesn't think it's weird. =P He diagnoses two of the characters with rigor mortis the same way he'd likely diagnose a cold. ROFL!!! And that's not even the best thing he does.

4. Believe it or not, there are romantic elements here, too. The whiny, annoying couple are actually really devoted to each other ("I knew we should have gone dancing!" . . . "I'll take care of you, baby!"), while the couple who just get thrown together that evening have the kind of epic first date I will envy forever. They'll be telling their grandchildren about the night they fell in love, shared their first kiss, and saved the world from zombies.

3. And Jesse's sister Lucy, who is half of one couple, may just be my favourite Zombie Slayerette of all time. The script may be a little confused about how good she is with a gun (first Jesse identifies her as the state's junior shooting champion and then she misses a shot at practically point blank range), but her line as she marches out the door with a shotgun and a vest full of shells is something I would carve over my own gun cabinet . . .

Look, they're ugly and they're dirty and they're dumb, and I don't even care if they are dead.
I hate them! There's no way they're touching me!

. . . That is, if I actually had a gun cabinet.
Or for that matter, if I had a gun.

The real point is that more girls her age should have this attitude about the things that the monsters in teen Horror movies represent. This is the stuff of which Final Girls are made.

2. Oh, did you know that meat packing plants keep their "Beef Brains" in clearly labeled boxes? I hadn't! Movies are so educational, aye? LOL!

1. Last question! Does anyone else look at the poster and think that Fright Night was ripped off?

Image Sources: a) Return of the Living Dead Part II poster, b) Fright Night poster


Angie Tusa said...

I was definitely thinking Fright Night the second I saw that poster at the top!

The title of the film is a bit confusing. Especially when, at least to more recent horror fans like me, you never know if a title that features "living dead" is going to be part of the George Romero series or not.

I've never seen the film, but you've got me interested. I'll keep an eye out for it.

NoelCT said...

John Russo, who co-wrote Night of the Living Dead with Romero, still owns a share of the rights. They agreed to part ways and each could go off in their own direction, George's sequels just using Dead in the title, but John's using Living Dead. John produced Return of the Living Dead and his original draft was a direct spinoff of Night, but when Dan O'Bannon (writer of Alien and Total Recall, making his directoral debut) was hired, he wanted to take things off in a different direction and severed the ties to Night, with the studio and other producers backing him, and John begrudgingly going along.

John has since done the films Children of the Living Dead and Escape of the Living Dead, as well as dozens of cheapie films and novels that are really quite awful and show just how much of the original Night script was George and not him.

I've never seen Part II, but I love the original Return. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Angie -- Until I read Noel's comment, I assumed the filmmakers were blatantly trying to hook George A. Romero fans. =P

I'd love to know what you think after you get to see this! =)

Noel -- That's great background information! Thanks! =D I had known about the director of Part II wanting to make a completely different movie, then being told that he had to turn it into part of the franchise. He was not happy about it. LOL!

Everyone seems to have seen the original except me. Maybe I'll run into it someday . . .