Sunday, May 21, 2006

Return of the Living Dead 2

1988, directed by Ken Wiederhorn

Ironic that a movie about brains should have so few. Did the Romero series-- each installation of which begins with complete knowledge of the prior film and builds upon that established world-- so thoroughly spoil me that I'm unable to appreciate sequels of another stripe? Perhaps it's not the fault of Return of the Living Dead part 2. The fault lies with me. I've seen too many zombie sequels that closely echo the original instead of creating new ideas.

One military officer offers a cursory “not again” but no one else in RotLD2 acknowledges that RotLD occurred. A shame that the excellent set-up for a sequel in RotLD wasn't adopted. Instead, we have a retread of events and causes, this time enacted by kids. It is my opinion that child protagonists add very little and offer a cheap way to spark audience sympathies with a minimum of characterization.

Because we know the RotLD formula is in effect there's very little tension to build. This time is instead devoted to comedy-- an interesting choice that didn't quite work for me but one I respect anyway. Two extremely likeable lead characters from RotLD return here in completely different -- and far less likeable-- roles. There are even certain dialogue echoes for fans of the first movie.

The slapstick increases when the zombies appear. I have never been a fan of slapstick humor though I think I'm pretty open to genre experimentation. Oh, I don't hate the idea of zombies joyriding in a stolen army vehicle, but I'm highly critical of the gag's execution. If a late 1980s horror-comedy starring a shrill and constantly screaming cast excites you, I recommend this movie.

Oh-- it also has Dana Ashbrook, whom I love a little bit.

Zombie explanation: 245-Trioxin, a military chemical experiment.

Contribution to the zombie canon: It's a bit unusual to offer a child protagonist, and I did enjoy the way they set our hero up against his nemesis-, the zombified neighborhood bully. It's also an example of a straight zombie comedy (RotLD was highly comedic but maintained a genuine sense of terror as well). Finally, it shows the zombies consuming all the animals in a pet store, marking one of the few films in which zombies consume living flesh indiscriminately. (The original Night of the Living Dead was the first, and despite an undisturbed crocodile living among the zombies in Day of the Dead, I believe this is canon for Romero's films.)

Favorite moment: The zombie kid eating his mother's head was a moment of successful tension and humor. Bon appetit!

Favorite zombie: So closely does this sequel mirror its predecessor that the tar-monster emerges from a cannister again. I bet you thought he'd be my favorite, wouldn't you? Especially since he's portrayed by the same creepy mime as the first? But no; whether through costume, mime, or other factors, the shimmying shimmering horror isn't quite the same here (and is far too quickly dispatched by a child-- blasphemy!).

Instead, my favorite is the ravenous zombie boyfriend played by Thom Matthews, who was so charming in the original RotLD. Through logic, love, and overriding hunger for brains, he convinces his girlfriend to let him eat her brains. It's sweet, really. We've seen love between zombies before (Wild Zero), and between the dead and the living (Cemetery Man, Night of the Living Dorks, White Zombie), but aside from Cemetery Man I cannot think of another film that shows a lover offering him- or herself to a zombie out of love. And this is the kind of trivia for which I watch these movies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need to see "My BoyFriend's Back" in which the titular Boyfriend/Zombie fantasises about the Girl he has a crush on offering herself to him "Eat Me" indeed.