Wednesday, October 2, 2013

REVIEW: Return of the Living Dead 3

Return of the Living Dead 3
Director: Brian Yuzna
Year 1993

Return of the Living Dead 3 is a surprisingly serious sequel to the long standing zombie horror/comedy series of the same name. Intimately approached, yet still chock full of gory goodness, this third installment goes for the jugular in both its horrific content and emotional story arch. In its daring attempts to change the sub-genre and the series, Return of the Living Dead 3 marks an astonishingly different take which greatly benefits the overall quality of this morbid tale. Like a Romeo and Juliet story set in hell, this zombie flick has one seriously infectious bite.

The film follows two young lovers named Curt Reynolds and Julie Walker, who being typical bored teenagers, decide to cause some trouble and break in to a military base where Curt's father is stationed. Once inside, they witness a number of horrible experiments that the government is testing, including reanimating dead bodies by the use of the deadly gas 2-4-5 Trioxen. Disgusted and freaked out, the couple decide to slip out of the complex before being seen. Unfortunately, later that night Curt has a fight with his father which results in Curt and Julie speeding off into the night on Curt's motorcycle and consequently getting into a horrible accident. Curt is banged up in the crash but Julie dies on impact, forcing Curt to do the unthinkable and head back to the military base and use the 2-4-5 Trioxen gas on Julie to bring her back to life. What follows is a love story that is truly dark, disturbing and impossibly entertaining.

Melinda Clarke takes on the role of Julie Walker, the beautiful rebellious teenager who suddenly becomes an undead, yet still very sexy zombie. Clarke is astounding as the troubled character and she puts all she has into the role. She's mesmerizing, disturbing, and highly addictive, and her performance literally steals the show from the rest of the cast members. In emphatic tone, Clarke commands such a great deal of screen presence that you find yourself sympathizing with her character and all of the horrible things she goes through within the run time of the film. It's amazing, the sheer range that Clarke has to convey as her character regresses into a savage state of mind, but she pulls it off with flying colors.

Paired up with Melinda Clarke is J. Trevor Edmond, as he takes on the role of Curt Reynolds the desperate hero of the piece. Against Clarke's performance, Curt doesn't tend to stand out, but be that as it may he does an excellent job with the role and makes for a believable hero. Much like Clarke's demanding character, Edmond has a great deal to do over the course of the film as the reluctant Curt. His sole purpose in the story is to keep his girlfriend somewhat alive and to stop her from regressing into a violent walking corpse, yet as the film moves along you can see that matters only get worse for our hero. Edmond's determined portrayal is quite endearing, and like Clarke, he handles the physical portions of the film with ease. Combined, J. Trevor Edmond and Melinda Clarke are an astounding team, and a great asset to the film.

As for the decision to take the film series into more dark and desperate territory, I'm all for it. The switching of sub-genres is a tricky thing, but in this case the end result is more than worth it. Though the tonal focus of the movie is steered towards a horror/romance/sci-fi hybrid, there is still a vague tongue and cheek attitude to the production. It may not be as over the top and in your face as the original The Return of the Living Dead, or especially the second entry Return of the Living Dead Part 2, but it's there in the expressive characters and out of control situations that come into play within the movie's twisted narrative. It might come to a shock to some viewers hoping to rekindle the magic of the original, but if you approach it with an open mind, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the film's ultimately dark vision.

Speaking of dark visions, Return of the Living Dead 3 is rather ballsy in this particular department. The gore is in ample supply, spouting from cracked skulls and severed limbs, while spilling out for all to see. If there is one thing that this entry carried over from the rest of the series, it is that they kept the blood lust intact. As before the zombies are viscous and they are proned to let the red stuff fly at the drop of a hat. All of the gory details are expertly crafted by the effects team and you can tell that they are having a blast showcasing every special effects trick in the book. This also carries over to Melinda Clarke's grotesque and alluring transformation into a sort of S and M zombie dominatrix, with her extraordinarily abundant piercings, including impaled shards of glass and rusty metallic objects. It's a hardcore flick with an interesting take on the Romeo and Juliet plot line, but it is one that you shouldn't be disappointed with as long as you keep an open mind and take in the truly awesome original zombie story.

Return of the Living Dead 3 is a sequel that genuinely makes a hard left in veering from the series original course, but one that finds its own ground to tread on and wreak havoc in. Surprisingly heartfelt and extremely sadistic, this unique gem opts to rewrite the cliched Shakespearean romance plot by adding its own twisted flair and outrageous cast of characters.

Melinda Clarke simply owns this film, from beginning to end, as she portrays one of the most sympathetic heroines in all of the horror genre. You can tell that she put all of herself in this role and that kind of commitment does not go unnoticed. Through pain and determination, she created a role for the ages and for that I can't praise her enough. J. Trevor Edmond also gives a great effort as Clarke's partner in crime and he carries the rest of the film with an outstanding sense of vigor. Toppled with the gore, the totally bleak tone and the tremendous atmosphere, Return of the Living Dead 3 is a surprisingly brutal horror hybrid that isn't afraid to shy away from the norm in order to tell its most compelling story. Simply put, this film is.....

Zombies with braces! What will they come up with next?

God Damn You're Sexy!

Son.... I didn't order a knuckle sandwich.

Can you guys at home believe this crazy shit? A zombie girlfriend!

What the hell did you just say about my friend's beautiful mustache?

Finger-licking good!

Where the hell did the backseat-Asian-driver come from?

You sir disgust me! Use a fork you savage!

You besmirched my mustache for the last time!

Riverman hates it when you stare at him with puppy dog eyes.

How about I shoot you right where your mustache should be?

That's right... Take a good look at that mustache honey.

So high-fives are out then?

Peek a boo you fucks you!

Zombie Battle Staring Contest..... GO!

How about a nice zombie back rub?

Hey Riverman! Screw You!

Hey Pop.... Don't let your knuckle sandwich get cold.


  1. I never thought the original was all that great, and I always resented how the "Return of the Living Dead" series suddenly made zombies crave BRAAAAINS. But I remember I was surprised that this movie was actually pretty good, considering I thought the second one was so disappointing. This may actually be the one I liked best. You're right, Melinda Clarke was good in it and she really carried the movie.

    1. I totally relate to what you mentioned on not particularly liking how the series switched things up and made the zombies crave BRAAAAINS and speak for that matter. The first time I was introduced to the series, I just wasn't feeling it, but years later when I was able to step back and watch it on its own merits, I found that I was able to appreciate it as its own take on the genre.

      Romero's vision of zombies is what I always pegged as the mold every zombie film should shoot for, but after delving into so many genres and seeing the massive diversity in each director's films, I've come to really enjoy Return of the Living Dead for its unique take.

      From that point of view, I agree with you that the third entry is probably my favorite just because it is told in a straight forward way and is not a comedy. Still I love the series as a whole and greatly appreciate the previous comedic entries because basically... I love zombies! Hahaha. P.S. Melinda Clarke is the best!

  2. Totally agree with you on this one, bought it and re-watched it a couple of months ago, and it just clicked for me. The Riverman, what a wise man!

    1. Indeed the Riverman is quite wise! Haha! Yeah, the film is just plain fun and the Brian Yuzna quality is just oozing from this production. Can't get enough of it!

  3. Great (I use the term loosely) minds think alike. I've just watched and reviewed this one too:

    Totally agree with everything you said, Melinda Clarke's portrayal of a woman losing her humanity and self is particularly phenomenal.

    Fantastic review, a great read.

    1. Thanks Dead! Agreed, Melinda Clarke does a fabulous job in the film. Great write-up on the movie and I love the site!