After the sequel to Return of the Living Dead made an unsuccessful grab at the teen market, Brian Yuzna was given the job of making a darker third film and did just that. The comedy of the first two parts is ditched and what we get is a shot at a romantic zombie-horror. In this instalment Trioxin is being used by a sinister secretive project (aren’t they always?) in the US army to try and create the ultimate soldier for the battlefield; one who does not need to eat or sleep and moves relentlessly forward. It’s a classic Big Dumb Idea from the movies, and you don’t need us to tell you that things quickly go wrong during tests.
Also there is Curt, the son of one of the project’s leads, and he has used his father’s keycard to sneak into the facility with his girlfriend Julie to try and impress her. When Julie is killed in a bike accident Curt has the grand thought that she needs to be resurrected as a zombie. You know, because he can’t live without her. Curt is probably the most aggressively stupid character in the history of movies. A bold claim you might think, but really, he’s a total asshat who manages to get nearly everyone he comes into contact with killed in horrible ways.
Julie is none too pleased to wake up dead and craving brains with a hunger she can only temporarily hold off by pushing whatever sharp object she can find into her skin. This leads to a great reveal later in the film that underlines the story is not really the thing. This is all an excuse to go batshit with the practical effects. From Julie’s transformation to the various zombies throughout (of which there are plenty) the FX companies involved must have felt like their Christmases had all come at once. If you’re into practical effects you will too, and even though some of them are at best a bit shonky now the fact it was all done on a virtually no-budget is all the more impressive.
Any connection you have to the characters or their plight is limited, and it’s worth repeating that Curt is the most insufferably selfish, dumb-as-piss lead, the type that can ruin your enjoyment of a film. Fortunately, it’s made up for by Melinda Clarke as Julie who gives it a real go at trying to invest the proceedings with heart. It’s not a great film by any stretch, but come for Clarke’s performance and stay for the gore and you’ll probably have a good enough time. This new release comes with a nice print and plenty of solid extras too.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: BRIAN YUZNA / SCREENPLAY: JOHN PENNEY / STARRING: MELINDA CLARKE, J. TREVOR EDMOND, KENT MCCORD / RELEASE DATE: 28TH AUGUST