This outing in the Return of the Living Dead series is a darker and more straight forward horror movie approach. This installment has been washed of the comedy and characters that made the last two at least somewhat successful. The first was a perfect blend of comedy and horror while the second was just more or less funny. So grab your Four Loko and a comfy seat because it is time for Return of the Living Dead 3.
The third installment in the ROTLD franchise follows Curt Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmonds), son of Colonel John Reynolds (Kent McCord), and Curt’s girlfriend Julie Walker (Melinda Clarke). Father is not all too impressed by his son’s morbid little love interest and tells Curt that his job is requiring relocation; basically telling Curt he needs to drop his little emo love interest and get packing. Curt, like many young men, decides that this is not an option and tells his father off because Julie is running away with him.
All the while we notice a key has been borrowed (stolen) from the Colonel, which allows Curt and Julie access into the private military testing facility where he works. Julie and Curt visit the facility and end up seeing a test take place with Trioxin 245, the dreaded reanimation chemical that this series is based around. A corpse is brought back to life and ends up killing the doctors before it can be subdued and put back in storage.
So Curt and Julie take off on his cycle and a little grab ass turns into a crash that takes Julie’s life. Curt decides the only thing to do besides not call the cops is take Julie to his father’s facility and bring her back to life. I mean really what could go wrong here? Julie is successfully reanimated via Trioxin 245 and because of the strong bond between the two Julie will not attack Curt. From here we will go on a roller coaster ride involving Curt trying to hide/help Julie, gang conflicts, and the military trying to get there newest pet project back.
The first very obvious thing about this horrific tale of love is a lack of comedic relief. The first two movies relied very heavily on comedy to keep things moving and it worked, for the most part. The first movie used a perfect recipe of dark humor and gore while the second tried way too hard to be funny and ultimately failed. This is your average teen angst movie being intertwined with a zombie flick.
So now Julie is a zombie or zombie in training might be a better title. I get the connection between Curt and Julie is deep so she may listen to him and allow him to live, but how is it the scientists killed earlier became psycho killing zombies within moments of their deaths? I know this is not a deal breaker but kind of a hole in the good old plot for sure.
I am not sure what country’s military security was being acted out in the lab scenes but someone has some answering to do. How is it following an incident where people have died can a kid come and go with a body and no one really noticed? The security was so laughable there is even a line about it in the movie. As to whether or not this was added to cover the plot hole, we will never know.
We have a teenage girl hit with some gas and now she has an eating disorder coupled with the need to cut herself. Was this meant to be a nod to kids in the 90’s as both of those things were a rising issue at the time? I believe the connection was intentional and also worked to hit an underlying nerve much like Romero’s films did on society and such.
The transition of Julie’s character was done very well you end up with a sense of feeling for her. The scene where she is cutting and impaling herself with metal should make the average person cringe. This all builds up to her becoming this BDSM monster. The first time I saw her come out of that door in the sewers with her new look I was not sure if I should be excited or just plain scared. Either way her character develops well to this point and then splat, falls flat following the battle scene in the sewer. Kind of a bummer because the direction things were going with Julie was actually becoming somewhat interesting. Being a huge Hellraiser fan, I loved her transformation and felt she looked way more Cenobite than traditional zombie.
The make up and gore were on par with the series to this point. Julie’s makeup was excellent as were most of the zombies in this film. I do believe the level of detail was easier to achieve in this installment because there is no mob of zombies to “make up”. The weird massive gun that is used to subdue the specimens was a little unbelievable in sound and execution. Why it had to be the size of a sniper rifle and fire weird bullets was never explained unfortunately.
One of the most unintentionally funny things was the Riverman. Basil Wallace played this character and for those who don’t know he was Screwface in Marked for Death along side ass kicker Steven Segal. This character was so odd and dressed like he was from Star Wars. I also could not figure out why a dude living in an old sewer would always look warm and sweaty. All of his lines have this New Orleans backwoods type feeling that did little more than make me laugh. The supposed raspy accent did a good job of taking away any seriousness within the character’s lines.
This is a movie well worth seeing if you enjoy zombie movies or horror flicks in general. The 90’s cheesiness and low budget are pretty obvious, but only help to make this B movie shine a little. Julie’s character was awesome and well acted. I really wish director Brian Yunza would have stuck with developing Julie past her transformation into “super hero ass kicker goth zombie chick”. The maybe unintentional underlying mention of kids in the 90’s and mutilation was also cool and very subtle. Pretty much the rest of the cast outside of Riverman is almost completely forgettable.
There are 2 versions of this movie out there and the most common is the rated one you will find on DVD or Netflix. The unrated version requires one of those ancient VCR type things as it has yet to make the jump to DVD and I don’t think it will anytime soon. I have seen both and the unrated one does carry more gore, but nothing really worth killing yourself over finding. By the end of either version I had the same impression regardless of rating.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime you are reminded of the 90’s in this film.
Pound a Shot: if you can name the cameo in this movie that was also in the last two.
Shotgun a Beer: if Curt’s face makes you want to punch him.