OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 (1993)
Director: Brian Yunza
The year 1985 brought us many things, such as Marty McFly, New Coke, and Tears For Fears. It also gave us a horror film that would go on to become a late-night cult classic: The Return of the Living Dead. Featuring a legion of flesh-eating undead attacking a gang of punks (one of whom spends the majority of the movie naked), it's one of the best "creature feature show" movies ever. And even in the 80s, sequels were everywhere. Even little-known films got sequels, so we got Return of the Living Dead, Part 2 in 1988. Unfortunately, this one was nothing more than a quasi-remake of the original, played as a comedy instead of a horror/comedy blend. They even got Thom Mathews and James Karen to play characters similer to their characters in the first Return. But in 1993, Trimark Pictures released a sequel that, while having nothing to do with either of the prior two, is not a bad film at all.
We begin by meeting Colonel Reynolds (Kent McCord), the head of a military research team looking into using the chemical Trioxin to create unkillable zombie soldiers. Whenever the zombies aren't needed, they'll just put them into sealed canisters until the next war. When Reynolds's son Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) overhears his father talking about a "big test," he and his girlfriend Julie (Mindy Clarke) plan on sneaking it to witness it. Curt steals his father's security keycard, picks up Julie on his motorcycle, and together they sneak into the research facility. There, they witness what exactly the test is: a corpse is re-animated with Trioxin, then shot with some capsule to paralyze it. Curt and Julie are heard by a guard, forcing them to flee before being found. Shortly after leaving, the experiment goes awry. The paralysis was only temporary, as the zombie gets up and kills a researcher. He's sedated a second time and wisely strapped down, but the dead researcher awakens and kills a colleague before being sedated himself.
The test is rightfully deemed a failure, and Colonel Reynolds is told he's being relocated to Oklahoma City to begin work on a new project. After years of moving around, Curt becomes furious after hearing they'll be moving again. They've only been in their current home for six months, but Curt's finally found some friends and a beautiful girlfriend that he truly loves. Curt insists that he's staying, then storms off on his motorcycle with Julie. As they're riding, Julie decides to get a little frisky with Curt, causing him to swerve off the road. Julie is thrown from the bike and smacks a telephone pole, killing her dead. Curt is devestated, but he's not going to give up on the woman he loves. He takes her body back to the research facility, sneaks back in, and gives her a dose of Trioxin.
Julie is revived, but isn't the same person she was. She complains of her hands being numb, and finds herself with an insatiable hunger. A guard finds them, and they only manage to escape him when a zombie from an opened Trioxin drum decides he wants a snack. Curt and Julie stop at a convenience store to get her some food, where they bump into a Latino gang. Julie starts chowing down on a giant pile of snack cakes that fail to satisfy her hunger, prompting the gang to start giving her trouble. They eventually rob the store, shoot the owner, and flee. Before the entire gang leaves, Julie takes a bite out of one of them, tearing off a huge chunk of skin. She's finally found the food she desires: human flesh.
Curt and Julie eventually end up in the sewers, trying to evade a group of soldiers led by Curt's father and the gang, who are looking for revenge for their injured friend. They meet a homeless guy called "Riverman" (Basil Wallace), who leads them to his home in the sewer to hide. Meanwhile, Julie discovers that the only way to control her urges to feed is self-mutilation. After piercing her entire body with shards of metal and glass, she finds that the pain no longer helps; she has to eat. As her hunger grows and she starts to lose control of her senses, how long will it be before she turns on Curt? Will true love be victorious, or did Curt make a horrible mistake?
The first Return of the Living Dead is one of my favorite movies, and Return of the Living Dead 2 isn't that great of a movie (despite being enjoyable in extremely small doses). But Return of the Living Dead 3? It is an absolutely wonderful film. It's much more serious than the prior two, though there are some minor bits of humor. The effects look good, though some look ridiculously fake. One is when Julie is supposed to be stabbing herself with a pin, though it's obviously a retractable one. Don't get me wrong either; the majority of the effects look great, but it's just that a few fake looking effects sometimes dampen the mood. In fact, the whole body piercing thing is just a little too gross. Maybe I'm a fuddy duddy, but take a look at the poster at the top of this review and tell me that's not gross (though for some reason, it's morbidly sexy). A love story involving body piercing and zombies? Yeah, it's true. The movie's earned the nickname "Romeo and Zombiet" among some of its fans, but that's not a negative term in my eyes. Even though it's still a zombie movie, I thought it was a nice change of pace from the standard "army of zombies eating brains" plot. In fact, the only real "huge zombie horde" appears in the last ten minutes. Other than that, we get just a few zombies at any given time. I like the fact that the love story adds some originality. Curt brings his love back, only to discover that his decision to do so has made her a flesh-eating monster, and now he must suffer the gruesome consequenses of choosing love over death.
On the acting scope, Mindy Clarke is wonderful as Julie, the tormented zombie who struggles with her love for Curt and the growing hunger inside her. She can be both gorgeous and disgusting at the same time, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. I mean, she didn't ask to be a zombie. It's her stupid boyfriend's fault. The rest of cast is decent, though I didn't care much for J. Trevor Edmond. He just didn't play the role like it could have been played. Basil Wallace's portrayal of Riverman is great, giving him a feel that he's straight out of the Louisiana bayou. In the music area, Barry Goldberg's music is creepy, yet melancholy. I thought it was quite fitting, considering the situation of the main characters.
Return of the Living Dead 3 is a good movie, one that I thought was really enjoyable. Yeah, there's no giant mob of monsters, but it's not about that. It's about the love of a young man and his undead lady. Few sequels can stand alone as a fine film, and not just a retread of the original, but this one can. There's a good story, a few scares, blood, zombies, and some quality acting. It's not for everyone, but for those who think they'd like it, I recommend it.
Final Rating: ****