DECEMBER 31, 2009
Nice job, BC. Close out the decade with a dull bore of a movie like Return Of The Living Dead Part 2. Now, when I was younger and obviously not going out drinking for New Year’s, I would usually rent horror movies. Some that I can recall being my New Year’s movie are Texas Chain Saw (2nd viewing), TCM III, and Alone In The Dark. Pretty good pedigree, no? But Christ, even if I had rented this back then instead of now, I probably still wouldn’t have liked it.
The biggest problem with the movie is that it’s not funny (it’s supposed to be) or gory (the MPAA said with one minor trim they would get a PG-13 and the filmmakers refused), which is kind of a problem for ANY horror comedy, but an even bigger one when the film is a sequel to one of the all time great horror comedies. Return of The Living Dead is hardly perfect, but it’s a damn fun time, features some terrific characters, and holds up well. Plus it delivered a pretty good amount of zombie action on a 4 million budget (this film’s was 6.2). Yet, I can’t even use one of those terms to describe this movie, as it fails to live up to the original on any level. Worse, it brings back James Karen and Thom Matthews as nearly identical characters, which further demonstrates how lame this movie is in comparison (besides, if they wanted to bring some actors back, it should have been the far more entertaining Clu Gulager and Don Calfa). Where their chemistry in the first film was funny, it’s painfully forced here, and that they pretty much shriek or scream every one of their lines doesn’t make it any easier.
It also botches the biggest benefit of a zombie sequel - being able to start things off quickly. Dawn of the Dead has that great panicked newsroom scene and then the apartment siege. 28 Weeks Later has that house escape. This movie has... a kid being chased by two bullies. It’s almost 25 minutes before the first zombie appears, and another 15 before there’s any actual action.
And by action I mean “running”. To give it credit, this is one of the few zombie movies in which the characters don’t hole up in a single location for a major part of the film. Instead they are constantly on the move, picking up new folks along the way as they try to escape the quarantined town. But that’s all there is - running. Karen and Matthews once again inhale the gas and slowly become zombies, and Matthews eats his girlfriend’s brain, but otherwise not a single character in the film actually dies. Zombieland got away with this by constantly killing zombies (and actually being funny), but here it’s always escape, escape, escape. The few zombie kills are usually OK enough (love the one that gets punched through the face), but they are few and far between. If not for a brief turn by Mitch Pileggi (Horace!) mowing down a bunch with a .50 cal, there wouldn’t be any real violence toward zombies OR humans until the film’s final 5 minutes.
None of this would be a major issue if the film was actually funny though. This movie’s idea of humor is for Karen’s character to say how he wants to be cremated (which is what happened to him in the first film), but all that does is confuse the fans of the first, wondering why he and Matthews are playing different people albeit with the same “Old guy showing the new kid the ropes” relationship. Later, Matthews says he’s having déjà vu, which again is just stupid, not funny. There’s also a running gag about the little kid’s older sister saying that he’s stupid when he seems to be the only one capable of making a successful plan. Haha, I guess? Hell, they even bring back Col. Glover (Jonathan Terry), and don’t give him anything funny to do either! The only laughs I got while watching this movie were when Glover appeared on screen and I mentally played back his highlights from the first film (“The usual. Crap.”).
Director Ken Wiederhorn (who previously disappointed with Shock Waves, though that film is Night of the Living Dead in comparison) and actor Thor Van Lingen provide an equally unnecessary commentary track. Thor never stops reminding us that he hasn’t gotten another acting gig since, and mostly just narrates the film when he’s not doing his “woe is me” routine. And Wiederhorn continually points out that he’s more interested in comedy than horror (then why isn’t it funny at least?) and also goes on and on about how blending the two genres simply doesn’t work and that audiences will never go for it. Oh yeah? Didn’t seem to be a problem for Dan O’Bannon, jackass. I think Edgar Wright and Ruben Fleischer might disagree as well. And that’s just for zombies; there’s certainly a long line of successful horror comedies in the slasher (Scream, Behind The Mask), werewolf (American Werewolf In London), monster (Monster Squad), vampire (Fright Night), etc. genres. So shut the fuck up.
The trailer, which wisely focuses on the horror (which out of context looks pretty exciting) instead of the comedy, is also included. Wiederhorn complains about the marketing throughout the film too, but at the end he also says that the film came out exactly how he wanted it to. Good to know, I’d hate to blame him for a studio hack job or something. This is all his mess!
What say you?