Return of the Living Dead Part II

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Return of the Living Dead
Part II
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Wiederhorn
Written byKen Wiederhorn
Produced byTom Fox
CinematographyRobert Elswit
Edited byCharles Bornstein
Music byJ. Peter Robinson
Distributed byLorimar Motion Pictures
Release date
  • January 15, 1988 (1988-01-15)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million[2]
Box office$9.2 million[3]

Return of the Living Dead Part II is a 1988[4] American comedy horror film written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn, and starring Michael Kenworthy, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook, Thom Mathews, James Karen, and Phil Bruns. It is the first of four sequels to The Return of the Living Dead.

Return of the Living Dead Part II was released by Lorimar Motion Pictures on January 15, 1988, and was a minor box office success, making over $9 million at the box office in the United States against its $6.2 million budget.


A U.S. military truck is transporting barrels of Trioxin, when one breaks loose and falls into a river without the driver noticing. The next morning, pre-teen bullies Johnny and Billy take a reluctant Jesse Wilson to a cemetery mausoleum for an initiation into their friend group. Frightened, Jesse flees into a nearby storm drain, where the three stumble across the rogue barrel. Upon opening it, they find a corpse inside and run away screaming as the toxic gas contained within begins to leak out. When Jesse proposes calling the Army from a phone number listed on the barrel, the bullies trap and leave him in the derelict mausoleum.

Billy and Johnny return to the barrel and open it, releasing the Trioxin gas that begins to permeate the whole cemetery. Grave robbers Ed and Joey, along with Joey's girlfriend Brenda, arrive at the cemetery in a van. While Brenda stays behind in the van, Ed and Joey open the mausoleum to loot the tombs within, allowing Jesse to run home. Meanwhile, acid rainfall causes the Trioxin to begin seeping into the ground and reanimating the corpses.

At home, Jesse is ordered to do his homework by his older sister, Lucy. However, Jesse sneaks out when a cable repairman, Tom, arrives at the house. Jesse goes to Billy's house, where Billy has fallen ill. Suffering from the effects of Trioxin, Billy warns Jesse not to tell anyone what they found. Jesse returns to the sewer to examine the barrel. Upon seeing a tar-covered zombie, Jesse flees to the cemetery, where the newly resurrected bodies begin to dig their way out of the ground. In the mausoleum, Ed and Joey witness a corpse come to life. Joey strikes its head with a crowbar, and they flee the building. They run into a hysterical Brenda as a mob of zombies grows.

Jesse gets home and tries to tell Lucy about the zombie uprising, but she dismisses him and locks him in his room. He starts a fire to set off the smoke alarm, which distracts Lucy so he can escape. Jesse calls the Army and gets through to Colonel Glover, but the call gets disconnected. Ed, Joey, and Brenda steal Tom's van but are unable to get through the zombie horde, so they barge into Jesse's house. Joey begins to fall ill from Trioxin exposure. As the zombies close in on the house, the survivors attempt to find a getaway car. They manage to break into a doctor's house, where they convince him to let them use his car, and they drive to a hospital emergency room that appears to be deserted.

At Billy's house, Billy's father is attacked and eaten by zombies. Fully turned, Billy proceeds to attack his mother. Elsewhere, Tom, Lucy, and Jesse drive through the town—which has apparently been abandoned—to Lucy and Jesse's grandfather's house, where they arm themselves with guns. They return to the hospital where Ed and Joey are experiencing symptoms of rigor mortis. Jesse is attacked by a zombie that both he and Tom shot multiple times. The group, including Joey and Ed, leave in the car and come across National Guardsmen. A fully zombified Ed attacks and kills one of the soldiers, causing his squadmates to flee. Brenda drives away with Joey, leaving Ed behind. Brenda is attacked by a zombified Joey, and willfully lets him cannibalize her.

Fleeing in a stolen ambulance, the survivors come to a roadblock, and the National Guard opens fire on them, thinking they are zombies. Realizing that the whole town has been evacuated, Tom drives them to a meat packing plant. They take a truck and distribute brains out of the back as they drive to a power plant, intending to electrocute them all. Billy opens the gate and zombies corner them into the truck. Jesse activates the plant's power, electrocuting all of the zombies. Billy tries to kill Jesse but Jesse pushes him into a large transformer, killing him. Glover and his men arrive to contain the scene and lead the others away.



Following the success of The Return of the Living Dead, producer Tom Fox opted to personally bankroll the sequel believing it to be a safe investment having been inspired by the successful sequelization of other works such as the Friday the 13th film series.[2] Fox hired Ken Wiederhorn to serve as writer and director on the film, and while Fox had initially wanted the sequel to be played as a straightforward horror film, Wiederhorn wanted to increase the amount of humor that was seen in the prior, which Fox allowed.[2] Fox had stated his intent with the film was to make a long lasting horror series much like Friday the 13th.[2]

Actors James Karen and Thom Mathews, who appeared in The Return of the Living Dead as medical supply warehouse employees Frank and Freddy, respectively, appear again in Return of the Living Dead Part II, although they play different characters than in the first film.[5] Like in the previous film, their characters gradually devolve into zombies after being exposed to toxic gas; during the production of Part II, Mathews remarked to Fangoria that, "This time I get to eat the girl's brains".[6]


Released on Island Records in 1988.

  1. Space Hopper" by Julian Cope
  2. "High Priest of Love" by Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction
  3. "I'm the Man (Def Uncensored version)" by Anthrax
  4. "Big Band B-Boy" by Mantronix
  5. "Monster Mash" by the Big O (lead vocal by Christian Gossett)
  6. "Alone in the Night" by Leatherwolf
  7. "A.D.I./Horror of It All" by Anthrax
  8. "Flesh to Flesh" by Joe Lamont
  9. "The Dead Return" by J. Peter Robinson
  • The soundtrack was released in Japan with the additional songs "Looking For Clues" and "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" by Robert Palmer.


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 5% rating from 21 reviews.[7] On Metacritic it has a rating of 45 based on 6 critic reviews indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8]

Home media[edit]

Return of the Living Dead Part II was released on DVD in 2004, containing a heavily altered soundtrack.

Actress Marsha Dietlein was asked in an August 2012 interview if the film would receive a newer and perhaps "special" DVD release, as was recently done for the first installment in the franchise. "I wish they would do a retrospective, but I haven't heard anything about it," she said.[9]

The film received a Blu-ray release in 2018 by Shout! Factory. It contains a new 2K scan of the interpositive, plus a bunch of new special features that were not on the DVD. Along with that, it also restores the original theatrical soundtrack that was omitted on the DVD release.[10]


  1. ^ "Return of the Living Dead Part II (18)". British Board of Film Classification. January 12, 1988. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Biodrowski, Steve (March 1988). "Return of the Living Dead Part II". Cinemafantastique. Fourth Castle Micromedia. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  3. ^ Return of the Living Dead Part II at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ J.C. Maçek III (June 15, 2012). "The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead". PopMatters.
  5. ^ Stine, Scott Aaron (2003). The Gorehound's Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s. McFarland & Company. p. 251. ISBN 978-0786415328. Retrieved August 18, 2023.
  6. ^ Shapiro, Marc (January 1988). "The Sequel's Sequel: Return of the Living Dead Part II". Fangoria. Vol. 7, no. 70. Starlog Group, Inc. p. 55. ISSN 0164-2111. Retrieved August 18, 2023.
  7. ^ "Return of the Living Dead Part II - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.
  8. ^ "Return of the Living Dead II (1988)". Metacritic. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  9. ^ "ReLiving the Living Dead: An Interview with Marsha Dietlein" on the Cheerleaders vs. Redneck Zombies website
  10. ^ "Return Of The Living Dead Part II [Collector's Edition] - Blu-ray | Shout! Factory". Retrieved May 10, 2019.

External links[edit]