Return of the Living Dead 3 is a 1993 Horror movie with some heavy romance and light sci-fi elements. I often credit this film for being one of the main driving forces that got me into the zombie sub genre, I remember watching this film a lot as a kid. Directed by Brian Yuzna and Written by John Penney, Return of the Living Dead 3 received mixed reviews as it changes from its predecessors in a some small ways. First, while Trioxin is in the film its function changes, the zombie run rather than shuffle and aren’t as fixated on eating brains, but it still manages to keep the some but not all of the campy humor of the earlier installments.
The film follows Curt Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmond) and his girlfriend Julie Walker (Melinda Clarke) steal Curts fathers, Col. John Reynolds (Kent McCord) security key and sneak into the secret government compound working using Trioxin to make a zombie to turn into Bio Weapons. While watching from a hidden alcove the two view the reanimation of a zombie then the blood bath that ensues. After the two sneak away and hook up they have a lovers quarrel over what they had seen. Col. John returns home and informs his son that they are leaving due to the failure of the program as they are being relocated in a week. Curtis decides to stay behind and storms out, leaving the house with Julie. Julie causes an accident as they leave town, resulting in her untimely death. Greif stricken Curt sneaks Julies corpse into the facility and uses Trioxin to reanimate her. But unlike other zombies she doesn’t come back mindless, just confused, scarred and numb. A zombie gets out after Curt revives Julie and as they escape the zombie kills a guard. This leads to Col. John and his bosses to learn that Curt has revived Julie leads to a manhunt. The rest of the film is just every spiraling of control as Julie learns about her new hunger and how to control it. Culminating in a very moving ending between father and son.
Gore is off the charts in this film, just like the earlier installments. The gore while looking fake is due more I feel to time then to any fault of the filmmakers. Return features a number of on screen deaths, that number being 17. Which is a very healthy number when talking about zombie films as they basically westerns, small groups cut off from outside help forced to do for themselves. So I wouldn’t get attached to side characters as they won’t last long.
The film even sports one of my favorite side characters a homeless vagabond who helps only for it be the literal death of him. Riverman (Basil Wallace) is a likable and interesting character, Wallace does an amazing job with a small amount of screen time he has. Another notable side character is Santo (Mike Moroff) a short lived antagonist. Hes the leader of a small gang and is of little consequence to the main plot. But Moroff is one of the actors that every time I see him the film takes a turn for the better.
I also really enjoyed the musical score. Its got a foreboding feel that keeps the atmosphere heavy and oppressive. Which makes sense as soon as I saw that music was done by Barry Goldberg a successful musician with 12 studio albums. I have to wonder how they got him involved on this project.
One thing that really grinds my gears is how inept the military is. They let civilians on to the base no questions asked. They don’t check blind spots, clear rooms or respond to danger in a timely manner. I hate it when military and law enforcement are treated as mindless goons who are easily outwitted.
My final thoughts? Night of the Living Dead 3 held up for me, not the best, but it did hold. One of the complaints I have heard of this film is that it lacks the humor of earlier films. I disagree this these naysayers, the humor is there just not as overt. The acting is poor, the mood is dark, brains are eaten and all hope is lost. In short it’s everything I look for in a zombie film. But this film is by no means a masterpiece and should be judged as such. So while I love it, I can easily see why others do not. So at the end of the day I have to give Return of the Living Dead 3 a 7.5/10. Its way to enjoyable even hampered by its small flaws. Night of the Living Dead 3 worth the watch.