Written by: John Edward Betancourt
Sometimes in the horror industry a franchise is basically one and done. There's that moment of brilliance that is quickly snuffed out when it comes to any sequel that follow it. Perhaps a great example of this case is the Return of the Living Dead saga. While the first film introduced something incredibly new to the living dead genre, the sequels left much to be desired. We could of course sit down and review each one in depth, but quite frankly, there isn't a lot of meat and potatoes to cover so instead lets's take a look at what came after the first film in the order of best to worst.
Return of the Living Dead Part II
The Plot: The canisters responsible for the disaster in Louisville, Kentucky in the first film are on the move again and once more, a handful of them are "misplaced." But when a pair of teenage bullies discover one such canister, the horrors within are unleashed once again.
The Lowdown: The movie gets an A for effort when it comes to trying to recreate the magic of the first film. In fact, a few of the original cast members return in this motion picture, but the magic does not. In fact the slapstick is turned up to eleven and the scares are either cookie cutter or non existent. There isn't much gore to be found here either, but the film is watchable. Not the worst entry in the series, but definitely nothing to write home about.
Return of the Living Dead Part III
The Plot: When the love of his life dies in a tragic accident, Curt Reynolds goes to the extreme to keep his love alive by sneaking his dead girlfriend's body into the secret military base where his father is experimenting with bringing the dead back to life. His gamble pays off and his love returns from the grave but now there are greater complications to their relationship...after all how will they live happily ever after when the one he loves needs to feed on brains?
The Lowdown: You may have heard the phrase "jumping the shark" or "nuking the fridge" over the years, which translates to that moment when a franchise or series crosses the wrong lines and finally steps into ludicrous territory and this is the film that does it for the Return series. You would think the focus of the film would be on scares and the threat of the living dead being back once again, but you don't really see enough of either of those things because, well...this is a love story involving a zombie. So...there's that.
Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis
The Plot: HybraTech is a massive corporation with their hands in everything, including resurrecting the dead. They have their hands on the unpredictable Trioxin and their lead scientist, Charles, will do anything to make sure his experiments on reanimating corpses is successful, even if it means using his own family members.
The Lowdown: Here is where things begin to get especially ugly for the franchise. While a veteran actor like Peter Coyote is featured in the film, I'm not sure why he bothered with this one outside of the paycheck because it is just bad. A paint by numbers plot, zero scares and bad acting and poor special effects should have made this film the last one in the franchise but surprise, they made one more!
Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave
The Plot: Charles, the wild scientist from the last film, has finally met his maker and his kin discover the last remaining canisters that contain Trioxin. Curious as to what exactly this gas does they conduct experiments on the gas and a surprise taste test leads to the discovery that in small doses Trioxin is an incredible recreational drug. This leads to the creation of Z, an ecstasy like drug that has a horrible side effect...when too much is consumed the user is turned into a member of the living dead.
The Lowdown: Yup. That's how far the franchise fell from grace. It went from a fun splatterpunk movie, to a flick that features a rave and people dropping Z like it's the newest flavor of Skittles and they of course turn into zombies. It's a sad end to the franchise and quite frankly, one of the most ridiculous plot lines I have ever seen in my travels. I only hope that this means that the Return franchise ends with this awful mess and it is left to rest in peace.