Eschewing the silly humor that turned horror fans off RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II, the third entry in this uneven franchise is a straightforward, gruesome, and relatively successful exercise in disturbing frights.
Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) and Julie (Mindy Clarke) are young, in love and tragically destined to kill people. Curt's father, Colonel Reynolds (Kent McCord), is working on a top-secret military experiment using Trioxin gas, which brings corpses to life, allowing them to be used as unkillable
weapons. Julie is anxious to witness these experiments and Curt sneaks them into the lab, where they witness one test going horribly awry: a revived corpse breaks free of its bonds and slaughters the attending doctors. As a result, Reynolds is given transfer orders from the base, and informs Curt
that they'll be moving soon. Curt refuses to abandon Julie, but they're soon parted anyway, by a terrible motorcycle accident that leaves Julie dead.
Realizing that he has a chance to revive Julie, Curt sneaks her body into his father's lab and exposes her to the Trioxin gas. She awakens, at first unaware of what's happened to her. But then she begins to experience painful hunger pangs, and while trying to find food for her, Curt incurs the
wrath of a Latino street gang. Worse still, he's horrified to find Julie feeding on the brains of a truck driver. Nevertheless, Curt flees with her to the sewers, where the homeless Riverman (Basil Wallace) gives them shelter. Julie tries to control her inhuman appetite through self-inflicted
pain, piercing her body with glass, nails and other implements. The gang tracks the couple down, and the zombified Julie begins to kill them off as a team of soldiers, led by Reynolds, arrives.
The resulting melee leaves the punks and the Riverman dead, and together with Julie, they're all taken to the military lab. The revived Riverman is strapped into an experimental metal harness designed to support the ghouls on the battlefield, but escapes. As Curt enters the lab to free Julie,
the other zombies begin to break their cages and go on a rampage, slaughtering the officials and soldiers inside. Pandemonium breaks out and Curt realizes that Julie is fading fast; as his father calls vainly for him to escape, the young man carries Julie into a crematorium where they can die
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III was directed by Brian Yuzna, whose best-known previous work is RE-ANIMATOR, which he produced, and its sequel BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR. Both films were marked by a mix of extreme gore and ghoulish black comedy, but RETURN III dispenses with humor of any kind. Its story
echoes that of BRIDE, dealing with a young man who literally refuses to let the love of his life die, and the confusion of the young woman when she returns from the beyond.
This element of the movie is its most evocative, and the character of Julie, though not entirely new, remains compelling throughout. As played by the striking-looking Clarke, she's engagingly alive in the early portions of the film, making her transition to zombiedom that much more tragic. Once
she becomes undead, her pain and confusion are palpable, yet Clarke is such a strong presence that the character never becomes pathetic. And when she takes current body-piercing fashion to spectacular extremes, she becomes a vision both horrific and eye-catching.
The rest of the movie is not quite up to her level. Curt, though well-played by Edmond, isn't fleshed out enough; instead of trying to deal with the psychological ramifications of what he's done to Julie, he spends most of the film in a state of apparent denial that anything's the matter. And
the subplot of the pursuing Latino gang is a ridiculous distraction, one clearly added to pump up tension in the movie, as if the undead love story weren't compelling enough on its own. The climactic zombie rampage, while tense and frightening, seems tacked on from another film, since the story
proper has been completely resolved before the action switches back to the lab. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III is more ambitious than the usual zombie film, and certainly more so than most horror sequels, but its ambitions aren't entirely matched by its execution. (Graphic violence, nudity, sexualsituations, adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: Eschewing the silly humor that turned horror fans off RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II, the third entry in this uneven franchise is a straightforward, gruesome, and relatively successful exercise in disturbing frights. Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) and Julie… (more)