The thing about horror movies, they do not have to be smashing successes to get a sequel. The first film gained a cult following long after this sequel. Return of the Living Dead 2 had no
involvement from Dan O’Bannon, and instead was written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn. Wiederhorn wrote and directed a Nazi Zombie movie starring Peter Cushing called Shockwaves eleven years prior. The last film he directed before Return of the Living Dead Part 2 was 1984’s Meatballs 2 (first of three sequels without Bill Murray).
The only link to the first film is the cannisters of zombies. This time one falls from a truck and lands in the sewer near a new housing development. Jesse is a kid bullied by Billy and Johnny. They discover the canister and release the gas. Elsewhere we meet Ed, Joey and Brenda. Ed and Joey are bumbling grave robbers and Brenda was tagging along because she is Joey’s best girl. Ed and Joey are exposed to the gas while in a mausoleum. They are terrified as they see the dead arise around them.
The fun conceit of Ed and Joey is they are played by James Karen and Thom Mathews…Frank and Freddy. Their performances are just as fun this time around. In this film, they are the side story. The central story follows Jesse, his sister, her boyfriend and an older neighbor trying to get out of the housing development alive.
Although it follows a lot of the same beats of the previous film, the ending has a decidedly different tone. The humor sticks pretty close to the first film, and they find a new way to use one of the best gags in the first film. The end result is a decently entertaining follow up. It is not quite as good as it’s predecessor, but it is a pretty admirable attempt to recapture the fun.