Return of the Living Dead Part 2 is too cheesy, self-referential, inane, and almost tries for so much (with more money and more locations/zombies) it falls flat on its face. There are some very good moments though underneath the very broad strokes from the script. The make-up and effects almost try to one-up the first film, even if that too sometimes lacks a certain demented sense of humor not tapped well. The simple story this time follows the same set of cannisters that let out the cork of the story, and once an ‘egg hatches’, as in the film film, it lets out a wrath via acid-rain and smoke that rises the dead and infects our heroes from the last film (played in performances not as hysterically spot-on as in the first entry by James Karen and Thom Matthews). This time there’s also the heroic kid, a couple of screamingly hectic girls, and an odd-ball doctor (among the living that is). There’s even a paper-thin sub-plot involving the boy and his soon zombified brother. And, in the end, it all leads to the power station where electricity now comes into play.
The soundtrack to the movie actually is one of the better parts of the movie (the original 80’s soundtrack that is, not the new one on DVD)- some songs of course very dated, though still quite appropriate in their frozen 80s metal state of mind. There’s also quite a good laugh hearing an unexpected Robert Palmer ‘Doctor Doctor’ song involving the soon-to-be-undead. And sometimes the little gags and puns thrown in, either through dialog of an obvious satirical jab (i.e. zombies stop everything that they do to watch a TV), do work enough to watch it from start to finish without having some good times. But there are downsides that do come with, almost, being too much like a goofy story than delivering genuine scares. The writer/director, Ken Wiederhorn, lacks the real skill of balancing more delirious and crazy moments that build on some laughs based on practically lampooning zombie movies, and doesn’t have the same measured control as Dan O’Bannon did with Part 1. Little gags like driving zombies don’t work as well as just simple insane looks from the actors- which for the most part is just average and banal (aside from the odd doctor who is just, well, odd).
I wouldn’t rush to see Return of the Living Dead part 2, unless you’re really a zombie-movie fan, or have seen the other 2 (discounting the direct to video sequels), OR want a couple of dumb tongue-in-cheek references to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Good enough as a very standard zombie movie, but with potential that goes to waste.