RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II (1987) Reviews and overview

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‘Just when you thought it was safe to be dead.’

Return of the Living Dead Part II – also known as Return of the Living Dead II – is a 1987 American zombie comedy-horror feature film written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn (Shock WavesEyes of a Stranger).

This sequel to The Return of the Living Dead reunites lead actors James Karen (Frankenstein Meets the Space MonsterTime WalkerPoltergeist) and Thom Mathews (Jason Lives! Friday the 13th Part VI; The Vampire Hunters Club) although, having been zombified in the original they play different characters here. It also stars Dana Ashbrook (Waxwork; Girlfriend from Hell), Marsha Deitlein, Philip Bruns (Silent Night, Bloody Night), Michael Kenworthy (The Blob – 1988).

On August 14, 2018, Scream Factory issued the film on Blu-ray as a Collector’s Edition.

Buy Blu-ray:

  • New 2K scans from the interpositive
  • New Audio Commentary with actress Suzanne Snyder
  • New Audio Commentary with Gary Smart (co-author of The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead) and filmmaker Christopher Griffiths
  • New Back to the Dead: The Effects of “Return of the Living Dead Part II” – including interviews with Special Make-up Effects creator Kenny Myers and Special Make-up Effects artists Andy Schoneberg and Mike Smithson
  • New The Laughing Dead – a new interview with writer/director Ken Wiederhorn
  • New Undead Melodies – an interview with composer J. Peter Robinson
  • New interview with actor Troy Fromin
  • Audio Commentary with writer/director Ken Wiederhorn and co-star Thor Van Lingen
  • They Won’t Stay Dead: A Look at Return of the Living Dead Part II including interviews with James Karen, Thom Matthews, Brian Peck, Kenny Myers, Susan Snyder, Michael Kenworthy and more…
  • Archival Featurette – Live from the Set
  • Archival interviews with Ken Wiederhorn, James Karen, Thom Matthews and Kenny Myers
  • Behind the Scenes footage
  • Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery of posters and stills
  • Still Gallery of Behind-the-Scenes stills from Makeup Effects artists Kenny Myers and Mike Smithson

The film was theatrically released by Lorimar Motion Pictures on January 8, 1988, taking over $9 million at the box office in the USA against its $6 million budget. It is the second of four sequels to The Return of the Living Dead.


The film has a lighter tone as it was partially aimed at a teenage audience. The main protagonists, Jesse and Lucy, share the last name ‘Wilson’, suggesting that they are related to Burt Wilson, the main protagonist of the first film.

A military truck is transporting barrels of Trioxin when a barrel breaks loose and falls into a river. The next morning, a young boy, Jesse Wilson, is at the cemetery with two local bullies. The trio investigate the Trioxin tank, and Jesse warns them that they should not tamper with it. The bullies trap Jesse in a derelict mausoleum and leave him. They then return to the Trioxin tank and manage to release the toxic gas.


A van pulls up to the graveyard, introducing the characters Ed, Joey, and Brenda. Ed explains to Joey that they are there to rob graves; Brenda expresses her fears for cemeteries, but Joey assures her that it will be worth their time and leaves Brenda in the van. He heads into the cemetery with Ed. They decide to loot the mausoleum and open the locked doors, releasing Jesse, who immediately runs home…


“Even though the tone is a bit different from the original, the effects and overall look of the film is still intact. The zombie makeup and designs are just as grotesque as before, with decaying bodies and rotten faces looking especially devilish, while the atmosphere is locked in that foggy haze from right out of a nightmare.” The Lucid Nightmare


“All the suspense of the original has been sapped away, and the pacing shuffles around aimlessly. It also puts an annoying kid in a lead role, which is never, ever a good idea unless your target demographic is in junior high (which might explain why I liked this movie so much when I was in 7th grade). The writing’s poor. The acting’s lousy. The direction is uninspired.” Adam Tyner, DVD Talk


“Scenes are lifted, story arches are repeated and the same jokes are retold; though this time it’s all done with less emphasis on risqué black humour and more on keeping the Saturday night family-TV crowd entertained. Never is this more obvious that in the Michael Jackson Thriller-esque dead rising from the graves opener…” Watching the Dead

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