Return of the Living Dead II (1988)
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!
If you ask people what zombies eat, most would be able to say with next to no hesitation "brains!" Of course, of those, only a few would be able to tell you just why it is that brains seem to be the main course, and those are the people who've most likely seen the Return of the Living Dead series. Still, it would be fair to say that thanks to the proliferation of things like The Walking Dead, the mainstream zombie crowd would have an answer more akin to "cannibal" or flesh instead of brains, but that doesn't work as good as a prelude to this does it? Read on to learn about when zombies started to get a bit more comical.
An army convoy carrying some toxic chemicals it needs to dispose of has a bit of an accident. On the way to their destination, the rear truck hits a pothole and bounces a bunch of the canisters out, one of which manages to roll down a embankment and into the nearby river. This promptly floats out to storm drain somewhere, where a couple of kids happen across it. Two of the rambunctious little punks open the canister while a couple of grave robbers are at work in the nearby cemetery - but the kids have released something that's about to really liven up their nights. A mist seeps out, causing the kids to run coughing while the mist turns to a storm, and as the rain falls to the ground, the dead start rising to meet it.
The third kid has gone back to investigate the canister, feeling guilty that they didn't call the authorities listed on the side and finds himself face to face with a mutated monster of a person. Thankfully, it's not the smartest thing and he manages to push it into the water below before racing back home. The grave robbers break for food is interrupted as a local sits up in their midst, and after hitting it with a pry-bar the two panic and run off, meeting up with the younger mans girlfriend and run off to nearby town. At the town, they run into a couple and try to warn them of whats going on - sounding every bit the crazy people one would think - and run off as they hear the zombies approaching. The third kid has managed to call the army number from the canister, but right as he's about to be patched through to who matters the robber trio steals the cable truck out front and slams into the neighborhoods phone hookup box, cutting all the lines.
They run after the zombies appear, eventually forming a bit of a rag-tag group with the third kid and his sister, as well as the cable guy. In an effort to get to a working car of phone, they decide it's best to go to the nearby doctor's house - escaping zombies along the way. Thus the doctor gets added to the crazy little group, and with zombies hot on their heels take off in his car to get to a hospital to seek help for the two robbers who are now feeling rather ill. At the hospital, it's discovered that nobody is around anymore, and the two robbers are in fact dead! Will the rest of the gang end up meeting the same fate, or will they somehow survive the zombie-infested streets?
The original Return is mostly responsible for the zombie brain-desires. This one continues that path line, and in a way feels very much like a Return 1.2 as opposed to a full on sequel. One of the largest changes is the near complete abandonment of serious tone in this one - sure, zombies are going around eating peoples heads and the survivors want to stay alive - but it's absolutely rife with comical stumbling from the zombies and self reference from the characters. When first feeling ill, one of the robbers mentions how he feels like this has all happened before - that him and his fellow worker and the zombies have all been in this situation before - which is pretty well true, considering those characters (or rather actors) were in the first movie. It's one of the jokes that can easily be missed if this is the first of these movies seen.
Effects are a mixed bag here - there is some serious moments (such as the canister zombie) that looked much better in the original. A bunch of the close-up effects (usually involving something getting either punched in or pulled off) end up feeling good (even if looking gross), and certainly the zombies prosthetic look a tad more advanced than just grey skin tone, but I do feel the more comical tone helped influence zombies that were far less threatening than previous. Sound works, providing a much more entertaining soundtrack than a lot of other zombie flicks out there - even though I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't walk away with anything stuck in your head. Character lines on the other hand...
Something like eighty percent of this movie has to just be screaming. Women screaming. Men screaming. Kid screaming. Screaming screaming screaming. It can get old pretty fast, but the actors ham it up quite nicely to go along with all that annoying screaming. Even zombies have a bit more personality here, getting distracted by aerobics tapes and cruising around town in a stolen jeep like a bunch of frat boys looking for some tasty head-meats. To be honest, it all adds a bit of entertainment quality to something that obviously feels like it wasn't meant to be a super-huge money making hit of a movie.
In the end, Return 2 feels more like a spiritual successor to something like Shaun of the Dead. It's more comedy than horror, can expend a joke or two at it's own expense, and overall feels more like it was just meant for some mindless entertainment fun - although one could easily propose that SotD perfected whatever attempt this one made at it. If you could only watch one, I'd say go after Shaun, but if your just looking for some light-hearted zombie fun, this one could be worth taking a peak at as long as you can stand a lot of people just screaming.