In Return of the Living Dead Part II, those fun loving zombies from Part I are back! This time they wreak havoc on a small unsuspecting town.
Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
Directors: Ken Wiederhorn
Producers: Tom Fox
Writers: Ken Wiederhorn
Features: * Scene-Specific Audio Commentary * Theatrical Trailer * List Price: $14.99
Billy...Thor Van Lingen
Jesse Wilson...Michael Kenworthy
“Return of the Living Dead Part II” has been one of those back titles I’d hoped would come to DVD sooner or later. I hate it when there’s a trilogy and only two of the features are available. What’s worse is that it’s the second part. My “Return of the Living Dead” collection is just not complete without “Part 2”, even if I don’t like it all that much.
Listening to fan's cries, Warner has finally decided to deliver, releasing “Return 2” just in time for Halloween.
I have a love/hate relationship with “Return 2”. It’s fun to see Thom Mathews and James Karen back together again and hamming it up as usual, in addition to some truly fantastic effects, but I can’t help but hate the film.
It’s not that it’s an all out bad venture, but I have one annoyance that I just can’t release. “Return 2” is not made for adults, despite what director Ken Wiederhorn claims. The film caters to children and is virtually free of profanity, nudity and real R rated violence. In actuality, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is more violent than “Return 2”.
Also, during the mid/late 80’s, thanks to films like “Child’s Play”, “Friday the 13th Part 4” and “The Lost Boys”, children as heroes in R rated films was this huge phenomenon. It was no longer the innocent virginal girl, but the innocent virginal Corey Feldman or with this feature, Michael Kenworthy.
That’s just what the target audience wants to see, a young boy running around from the killer. I’m not saying this is wrong, but a girl is easier to get attached to for both men and woman. It affects woman, because they connect with the girl and men, because they like her.
This innocent boy phenomenon reached the height of creepiness with Victor Salva’s “Clownhouse”. If you don’t know anything about the true horrors that went on there, you should Google it. At least the innocent virginal girls were of legal age.
This isn’t to say that the young boy plot doesn’t work. In some films, it offers viewers a chance to attach themselves to the film. Let’s be honest, “The Lost Boys” would not have worked as well without Mr. Feldman. The problem is that these films are R rated, and in the case of “Return 2”, a sequel to a VERY R rated film.
What seems to have happened is that instead of trying for a PG-13, the director just toned down the gore and other profanity. The result is a weakened R film that should have been PG-13.
Alas, this was, if you can recall, a time when films like “Rambo”, “Robocop” and “Predator” were marketing toys to kids all over the world. I’m glad I was able to grow up in that period, but now that I’m older, I can see how that wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
“Return of the Living Dead Part II” is not an awful film. It’s just really weak. It never really tries to top the original and it’s never really committed to scaring you. It’s funny at times, but most of the jokes are recycled from the first feature.
“Return 2” is the perfect example of a film that just shouldn’t have been made. If you want thrills, chills and hilarity, stick with the first chapter. Unless, of course, you’re like me and you need to complete the trilogy.
Presented here in the film’s original Anamorphic Widescreen 1:85:1 aspect ratio, “Return 2” is not the cleanest of films. It’s full of grain and fuzz. Often I found myself trying to fix the focus on my projector before I finally settled that it was the picture and not the equipment.
Chances are, the source material had taken a major beating prior to being remastered and the print was simply beyond repair. However, this is about as nice of a print as we’ll probably ever see. It’s not awful, it’s just sub par.
Okay, this is where it gets interesting. “Return 2” features a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. While watching the film, I noted several musical changes. At times, it seemed as though the music didn’t even fit the feature. My roommate, who had never seen the film, also noted the oddity. I then checked out the provided audio commentary as well as several online forums, and to my surprise, director Ken Wiederhorn and fans were complaining about the same thing.
The score is not the same as the theatrical feature’s original score. The film features new dialogue and new audio inserts, also not included in the theatrical cut. The most notable addition is a monologue added to the beginning of the feature offering a bridge between “Return” and “Return 2”. None of these changes were requested by the director. It would appear on the surface that Warner owned the rights to a different copy of the film.
It would appear that way…until one listens to the French mono track. Other than the French vocals, this track contains the original theatrical soundtrack!? I have no idea why Warner would use a new soundtrack for the English track and use the old for the French track. Perhaps a recall is in order.
Both tracks sound pretty beat up but I’m sure the diehard “Return of the Living Dead” fans will listen to the French track with English subtitles turned on. Don’t stress about it too much though, neither soundtrack is very good.
English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.
A scene-specific audio commentary from director Ken Wiederhorn and actor Thor Van Lingen are included. Oddly enough, Thor seems to remember more about the production than Wiederhorn and rightfully so, I mean, the guy's name is Thor.
Both discuss their irritation with the new score and reminisce about the production. Wiederhorn tends to describe the action as it appears on screen, but good old Thor keeps us busy with trivia and fun factoids. An entertaining listen for fans. Casual viewers need not bother.
A Theatrical Trailer is also included.
This is one mess of a disc. Messy picture, bad movie and the wrong soundtrack. Only the extras save it. I would hope that Warner would revisit this film in the near future and fix the problems they seemed to have caused. In the mean time, "Return 2" will sit on my shelf in it's rightful place, in between “Return” and “Return 3”.
As entertainment: * 1/2
As a film: * 1/2
Overall: * 1/2
----R. L. Shaffer