1993 saw the 3rd film in the Return of the Living Dead series make its appearance & anyone expecting a repeat of the comedic adventures of the 2nd movie was in for a shock. Return of the Living Dead 3 is a brutal movie that manages to be both gory & sexy. It lacks the smart jokes of the original but makes up for it with a moving love story set against the backdrop of those famous Trioxin canisters.
Col. Reynolds works in a make-shift military base trying to turn the Trioxin gas effects into a weapon to be used for warfare, his son Curt & his girlfriend Julie have stolen his ID card & gained access to the base for a little bit of exploration & fun. They witness a Trioxin zombie begin re-animated & the military’s attempts to control it fail miserably in a really nasty sequence of death & destruction.
They escape before they are caught & return home to have sex. During this we get an idea that Julie is kind of ‘turned on’ by what she saw as she won’t stop talking about it. Col. Reynolds returns home to inform his son that they have to move (again) as he has been re-assigned. Curt refuses & drives off on his motorbike with Julie. Excited that they are going it alone Julie playfully grabs Curt causing him to lose control of the bike & killing her in the process.
Distraught with the loss Curt takes her to his father’s base, breaks in using his ID card & administers Trioxin to Julie. It works but with many drawbacks…Julie is dead, she can’t feel pain & her hunger is increasing. Her love for Curt keeps her from attacking him but when they are forced to go on the run with the military chasing them it is only a matter of time before the need for brains will take Julie over.
As you can tell from my plot description the movie is mainly centred on Curt & Julie & the problems they face dealing with Julies re-animation. The animosity that is thrown at their relationship in life is only heightened in her death & her attempts to feel pain & lose that numb feeling get more & more extreme resulting in some of the most shocking self-mutilation scenes in horror.
Does Return 3 stay true to the ground rules set by the first movie? Unfortunately other than the Trioxin gas & the difficulty in killing Trioxin zombies there isn’t much to link it to the original. That being said it does a much more interesting job (than part 2) of taking the idea & making a good zombie movie out of it. That Julie feeding on brains/flesh can help deal with the pain of being dead is spot on for the female torso conversation in the original. I love that kind of thing…
Where this movie excels is with its gory effects & use of make-up. Have a strong stomach when watching this as some scenes are generally disturbing, none more so then the Julie transformation at the end.
As the main star going through changes that not many women have experienced before, Melinda Clarke who plays Julie is unbelievably good. Even as a messed up zombie she still manages to come across sexy. Her & Curt’s love is extremely believable & while the ending will leave you feeling a bit distraught it works perfectly with what we’ve seen so far. This is a Romero & Juliet story…zombie style!
There are a lot of positives to Return of the Living Dead 3 but there are also a fair few negatives. For starters the lack of security at the base considering what is going on there. Sure we see the odd guard walking around & later we see Curt & Julie were caught on CCTV but surely someone would have been watching said CCTV at the time?
I also didn’t love that a single zombie bite turned the bitten victim into a zombie. That is not Return’s style but I do understand that this movie couldn’t have worked any other way. What isn’t so excusable is the Trioxin barrel zombie…if you know you’re history the Trioxin barrel zombie is a version of ‘Tarman’. A large black & gooey zombie that even the 2nd movie got right. Return 3’s version is a sort fused monster thingy that looks pretty plastic & doesn’t seem that much of a threat. It does have a pretty cool moment where it rips its attached bits off but the change was unnecessary.
Part of me wants to complain more about the lack of relationship to the series opener but the reality of it is no 2 Return of the Living Dead movies are the same. On the one hand it is what makes them stand out & on the other a huge fan like me struggles to look past the first & the best.
It was a valiant effort at making a great zombie movie & this would be the last Return movie for 12 years….
As the 3rd in the series it falls flat of what I expect to see in a Return movie as it lacks any real tongue in cheek moments, has anything resembling a great soundtrack or pays enough homage to the series original. However as a zombie movie it is excellent with amazing make-up & top acting. It is a very bleak movie to watch but who doesn’t get sick & tired of happy endings?
Return Of The Living Dead 3