The Zombie Classic With The X-Files Star, Stream Without Netflix

By Brian Myers | Updated

 Six years before sci-fi fans got their first look at Mitch Pileggi as Walter Skinner in the hit series The X-Files, the veteran actor landed a role playing an army sergeant in one of the most underappreciated zombie films of its era. Return of the Living Dead Part II was released to theaters in early 1988, barely making back its $6 million production budget. The film might not have the strength of the original’s cult following behind it, but it’s still a great feature that you can now stream for free.

Return of the Living Dead Part II

Return of the Living Dead Part II

Return of the Living Dead Part II opens with a military convoy carrying barrels of toxic chemicals to a top-secret location. When the driver of one truck hits a bump in the road, a barrel breaks loose of its fittings and rolls down a hill and into a culvert. Soon, teenage bullies Billy (Thor Van Lingen) and Johnny (Jason Hogan) discover it when they are chasing the younger Jesse (Michael Kenworthy).

The three boys open the barrel and get a glimpse of the dead body inside it. Though they run away in fear, Billy and Johnny soon return to reexamine their find. Return of the Living Dead Part II sees the young miscreants releasing the toxic Trioxin gas from the barrel, the very chemical from the first film that causes the dead to reanimate.

Hoards Of Zombies Are To Be Expected

Return of the Living Dead Part II

As the cloud of gas settles on a nearby cemetery, grave robbers Ed (James Karen) and Joey (Thom Mathews) are inside a crypt breaking open vaults to loot valuables from corpses. They see the dead begin to rise from their graves, chasing the two of them and Joey’s girlfriend Brenda (Suzanne Snyder) away from the cemetery.

Young Jesse visits Billy, who is seriously ill from inhaling the Trioxin gas he and Johnny released. Billy tells Jesse to keep his mouth shut about the barrel, but Jesse, wearing protective gear, returns to it to get the number off the side so that he can contact the military. As the horde of zombies begins to multiply in Jesse’s town, the survivors begin to band together to find a way to escape the army of the undead that pursues them.

Reception And Legacy

Return of the Living Dead Part II

Return of the Living Dead Part II failed to generate the same cult fan base as the original, largely as its predecessor developed a large following from its punk rock and psychobilly soundtrack. That aside, the sequel boasts its own powerful set of tracks throughout its runtime, giving audiences a healthy dose of thrash metal with several songs by Anthrax and Leatherwolf. Like the first film, the second installment uses its carefully curated soundtrack entries to further develop the tone and the development of its characters.

Return of the Living Dead Part II has been panned by critics since its release and only has an aggregate score of an embarrassing 5 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. While it’s agreed upon even amongst the film’s fans that the acting is well below standard, the movie has a good deal of attributes that should rightly lift it above and beyond its contemporary haters.

Well-Timed Humor Steals The Show

Return of the Living Dead Part II

James Karen and Phil Bruns are Return of the Living Dead Part II’s saving graces among the film’s performers. Though most of the players are barely going through the motions on the script, there are some pretty witty lines and a fair amount of laughs throughout the course of the movie. The moment where a zombie’s severed head has a screwdriver plunged into it, leading to the recipient bellowing, “Get that screwdriver out of my head,” breaks up the intensity of the horror, in one of many examples of well-timed humor.

Return of the Living Dead Part II also gives audiences great special effects and stellar movie makeup. The zombies on the screen are some of the best to come out of the 1980s, coming close (but not quite) to eclipsing the ones from the original.

Gives Fans What They Want

Return of the Living Dead Part II


The storyline carries many typical zombie film tropes and has a semi-predictable sequence of events. But Return of the Living Dead Part II remains a great example of 80s horror that gives genre fans what they crave the most, but without the gratuitous nudity from the first installment. There’s tons of gore and action, creepy settings, and the added bonus of seeing the film’s worst characters getting their just desserts.

You can stream Return of the Living Dead Part II for free on Tubi or rent it On Demand with Prime, AppleTV, and Vudu.