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GeekTyrant October Zombie Fest: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD Part II

Movie Zombie Horror by Joey Paur

I had to throw in a classic 80’s zombie film into the mix, and Return of the Living Dead Part II was one of those films I loved watching over and over again while I was growing up.  This American zombie horror comedy came out in 1988, and it was the movie that got me into zombie films at such a young age. It was just a fun zombie movie that had the blood, gore and comedy that would spark the messed up imagination of any young kid.  After this, I was sold on horror movies.  Shortly after, I watched the first original movie, which as a young kid I enjoyed just as much. I then went on to watch everything I could get my hands on.

I was about 10 year when I saw this movie, and the only reason why my parents let me watch it was because one of my babysitters at the time had a lead role in the movie.  Her name was Marsha Dietline and she played the character Lucy Wilson.

The film follows Jesse Wilson (Michael Kenworthy), a young boy being bullied by thugs from the neighborhood when all of them discover a sealed drum containing a zombie corpse. The release of the 2-4-5 Trioxen gas from the container reanimates the dead in a nearby graveyard, thus releasing an army of the undead, which mindlessly crave living human brains. As Jesse tries to contact the military to put a lid on the situation, the zombies are dispatched through a variety of awesomely gruesome methods. 

It’s not one of the best zombie films ever made, but it holds a special place in my heart because it was my time. If you haven’t seen the film yet check it out, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Here’s one of the tag lines for the film:

If "A Nightmare On Elm Street" made you scream and "Creepshow" split your sides, then... "Return Of The Living Dead Part II" will scare your brain out!

Here’s a fun little quote fro the film:

Hardly anything to get excited about, it's only a severed hand. 

Here’s the trailer for the film:

Here’s some trivia on the film that you can check out.

  • Thom Mathews and 'James Karen (I)' nearly duplicate their roles from Return of the Living Dead as a pair who are sickened by zombie gas. In both films they have the exchange, "Listen kid, if you like this job..." "Like this job? Like this job!" 
  • The music score on the DVD release is almost completely different to the original theater, laserdisc and VHS versions. This is widely said to be because of difficulties obtaining the rights to use the original score. However, the original score can be heard on the French audio track. 
  • Writer/Director Ken Wierderhorn was trying to get out of the horror genre at the time Lorimar Productions bought his script. Once the film was released he received nothing but horror-comedy directing opportunities. 
  • The set for Jesse's bedroom is the same one used for Billy's. Posters and furniture were re-arranged to change the look. 
  • The MPAA would have granted this film a PG-13, if the scene at the hospital where the zombie is shot in half was toned down. 
  • The blue electrocution lines in the final sequence were all hand-drawn frame by frame and cost over $50,000. 
  • Near the very end of the electrocution scene, a Michael Jackson impersonator zombie can be seen - a direct reference to his Thriller (1983) music video.
  • The script was not originally written as a sequel in the "Living Dead" franchise. Producer Tom Fox was interested in Wiederhorn's story, but would only finance it if he agreed to make it a part of the series. 
  • At the end of the original VHS tape, there is a commercial for a number that you can call to order clothing from the movie. This was a limited time offer from the company Movie Tees. You could order a white tank top, a black or white t-shirt, and a black and white sweatshirt with 3-4 different designs. 

Here’s a full detailed synopsis if you’re interested:

The story begins with a military truck transporting barrels of Trioxin, the soldier driving the vehicle through a rain pour is unaware when a barrel breaks loose and falls into a river. The next morning a young boy called Jesse Wilson is at the town's sewer drains with 2 local bullies, the trio investigate the Trioxin tank they find and accidentally release a poisonous gas cloud, a surprised Jesse escapes without inhaling these deadly fumes but is soon chased by the bullies to the near-by cemetery. They trap Jesse in a derelict Mausoleum and leave him. At this point a van pulls up to the graveyard introducing the characters Ed, Joey and Brenda. Ed explains to Joey they are here to rob graves of their valuable possessions, Brenda expresses her fears for Cemeteries but Joey assures her it will be worth their time and leaves Brenda in the van and heads into the cemetery with Ed. Deciding they'll rob the loot from the Mausoleum they open the locked doors releasing Jesse who immediately runs away home.

Jesse returns home and watches his older sister Lucy doing aerobic exercises to a work-out video, she tells Jesse to do his homework or he will be grounded.

Later into the night a cable technician arrives at the Wilson house to install cable TV, as he enters Jesse manages to sneak out the backdoor and heads to one of the bullies' houses (Billy) upon arriving Billy's mother tells Jesse of Billy's illness and allows him in briefly. Jesse is shocked to see the effects of the Trioxin that is making Billy ill. Billy whimpers to Jesse not to tell what they've found but is interrupted by his mother who asks Jesse to leave. Jesse makes his way to the sewer drains again to further examine the Trioxin tank, he finds a code for the military but is attacked by a zombie covered in tar who has escaped from the tank. Jesse flees to the cemetery and witnesses Trioxin seeping into the graves reanimating zombies he runs home before they climb from their graves. At this time Ed and Joey are still inside the Mausoleum and witness a zombie awakening from its tomb they club him with a crowbar to no avail. Outside in the dark a worried Brenda enters the cemetery unaware of what is going on she is spooked from a zombie approaching her and tries to flee only to be stopped by a zombie that has creeped up on her from behind, she punches him, crushing his face and runs deeper into the graveyard. Brenda meets up with Joey and a frantic Ed and they escape to the streets where they meet Billy's Parents and warn them of the zombies before fleeing. Jesse returns home to an angry Lucy who chases him into their parents bedroom, he locks the door and calls the military for help and is placed on hold.

Outside Joey, Ed and Brenda steal Tom's van and accidentally knock over a zombie into a telephone pole disconnecting Jesse's call, they are threatned with a gun by Billy's father who is then attacked by the supposedly dead zombie. The streets are now flooded with zombies and the traumatised group run to the Wilson house for refuge. After they enter an argument occurs over what is happening, Joey and Ed show symptoms much similar to Billy. Jesse assures everyone that they're zombies and that Dr Mandel (neighbour) can help them all escape. Billy's mother leaves her house and sees her husband being eaten by a group of zombies she quickly returns to her house removing her glasses and is then killed by a now zombified Billy. Jesse and his group make there way to the Doctor's house and get trapped in his garage. Zombies break there way in but they escape with the doctor in his car. Tom drives through a hoard of zombies knocking one right onto the car roof. During there journey the zombie reaches in through the open window only to have his hand cut off, they are attacked by the zombie's hand before it is thrown from the window.

Arriving at a deserted hospital Joey and Ed's health worsens. Jesse, Lucy and Tom leave to get more ammuniton and guns from there uncle's home after realising there is no help. Dr Mandel tells Brenda that Joey and Ed are more or less dead, she disagrees heavily with this and calls him a "Quack" and leaves with a dying Joey, Ed however follows much to Brenda's annoyance. They are stopped by three military men wielding guns. Ed attacks one eating his brains and the two remaining soldiers drive off leaving a helpless Brenda. Ed is occupied with eating his victim so Brenda uses this opportunity to ditch the zombified Ed and escapes with Joey.

In the car Joey transforms into a zombie, Joey confesses he wants to eat Brenda's brains and attacks her, she escapes unhurt from the car and bumps into a dazed zombie she manages to get her hand trapped in his mouth and rips his jaw from his face. Joey runs towards her and chases her into an empty church explaining that he wants her spicy brains, Brenda retaliates by saying "I'm not into dead guys!" Joey explains that he loves her and seeing no other option Brenda allows him to eat her.

The others return to the hosiptal and collect Dr. Mandel they devise a plan to lead the zombies with frozen meat van to a power plant and electrocute them all. After arriving at the plant they place meat into puddles of water with wires attached to the meat, zombies manage to ambush them after Billy opens the large entry gates. Lucy and Tom hide into the back of the truck and zombies begin breaking there way through the truck's door. Jesse who is now inside the plant is attacked by Billy and kills him with a screwdriver. Jesse activates the power, killing all of the zombies. As Jesse, Lucy, Tom and Dr. Mandel leave the plant the military arrive to clean up the bodies with flamethrowers.

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