Luring hordes of zombies with bait? Elaborate booby traps meant to kill en masse? No, no, I'm not describing the latest zombie horde game - I'm talking about Return of the Living Dead Part II, a 1988 horror flick that left a lasting impact on zombie media for years to come.

A sequel to 1985's fantastic Return of the Living Dead, the movie follows a group of wee lads who unwittingly release government-issue zombie gas from a misplaced canister on their sleepy suburban town. What follows is about what you'd expect, with the dead rising from their grave to wreak havoc and feast on brains.

But the novelty of Part II lies not necessarily in its plot, but in its clever twists and presentation. The whole movie has a humorous vibe to it, which was becoming the norm with horror flicks of the era, but had yet to fully become an accepted part of the zombie sub-genre. Funny scenes like a girl reaching orgasm while her boyfriend eats her brain, or a doddering old alcoholic using his booze to take out a zombie, give the film a humorous bite to it that was lacking in its contemporaries. Well, that, and all the cheesy one liners.

It's impossible to imagine a world where Dead Rising or Stubbs The Zombie could come out without this movie. Zombies are still a threat, yes, but they're mostly treated like pulsing bags of blood waiting to be popped, torched, or electrocuted in humorous ways. Genre standards like Dawn of the Dead were satirical, sure, but didn't demonstrate as much obvious zeal when it came to the art of killing zombies. That glee is very clear in zombie games, which incentivize players for murdering them in various creative ways.

Speaking of killing zombies, Part II also popularized a lot of the mechanics that would later become standard in more zombie games than you can count. If you've ever used raw meat to lure a mindless horde, trapped a mob of flesheaters in an electrical trap, or shaken zombies off a speeding car in a video game, you owe a debt of gratitude to this flick. Games as recent as Days Gone and Zombie Army 4 utilize these tropes as mechanics, and a direct through-line can be drawn between them and this movie.


So if you're curious about where all the stuff you take for granted in zombies games takes root, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. Unlike the first and third entries, Return of the Living Dead Part II isn't streaming anywhere right now, but Shout Factory has a stellar Blu Ray that you can pick up from their website.

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