Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

return of the living dead part ii poster 1988 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 6/10

Ed and Joey, screwdriver zombie head

Not on the level of the original

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Return of the Living Dead Part II

Studio:  Lorimar Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Comedy

Release Date(s):  January 15, 1988

MPAA Rating:  R


I’m just not as cool of Tar Man as my “cousin”

During the transportation of the gas known as Trioxin, a barrel is lost.  When Jesse Wilson (Michael Kenworthy) finds the barrel with a couple of bullies, the bullies unleash the gas.  The gas begins to raise the dead and also infects a couple of grave robbers named Ed (James Karen) and Joey (Thom Mathews).  Now, the town has been quarantined and Jesse, his sister Lucy (Marsha Dietlein), a cable installer named Tom Essex (Dana Ashbrook), and an alcoholic doctor named Doc Mandel (Philip Bruns) must find a way to stop the zombies before the army moves in.


“Get that damn screwdriver out of my head!!!”

Directed by Ken Wiederhorn, Return of the Living Dead Part II is the follow-up to the surprise hit and critical success The Return of the Living Dead from 1985.  The film did profit but wasn’t as well received as the original film.

I love The Return of the Living Dead.  It is one of those movies that finds the right blend of comedy and horror.  With such a good freshman outing, I had a lot of hope for Return of the Living Dead Part II.  While it is still an entertaining film, it does lose the edge of the original.


I need a delicious helping of brains!

The set-up for Return of the Living Dead Part II is virtually identical to the first one.  The gas is found and brings a graveyard to life.  The movie even makes some jokes to this since they brought back James Karen and Thom Mathews from the first film as different characters.  Unfortunately, besides Karen and Mathews, the new characters aren’t as interesting as the punks, and the decision to turn it even more comedic leads more to a Goonies like adventure…plus zombies.

Karen and Mathews do continue to fun as the bumbling graverobbers infected but Michael Kenworthy, Marsha Dietlein, and Dana Ashbrook are horrible as the group trying to survive the infestation.  They can’t act and having a kid as one of the main characters brings down the movie.  You might notice The X-Files’ Mitch Pileggi (aka Skinner) as one of the soldiers gunning down zombies.


This is kind of a Thriller night!

The visuals for the movie also lose the charm of the first film.  I felt that the Tar Man from the first movie was much cooler than this Tar Man…I just wish that in both movies the character stuck around a bit longer.  I don’t like the zombies as much in this film and the electrocution scene is pretty weak.  I do like the two stand-out zombies aka “Get that damn screwdriver out of my head” and the Michael Jackson zombie at the end.

Return of the Living Dead Part II is still a fun movie but a let down if you’ve seen the original.  The movie was enough of a success to continue the string of films.  Return of the Living Dead Part II was followed by Return of the Living Dead 3 in 1993.

Related Links:

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

Return of the Living Dead:  Necropolis (2005)

Return of the Living Dead:  Rave to the Grave (2005)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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