‘She’s to die for.’ Return of the Living Dead III – aka Return of the Living Dead 3 – is a 1993 American-Japanese science fiction horror feature film directed by Brian Yuzna (The Dentist and sequel; Bride of Re-Animator; Society) from a screenplay written by John Penney (Hellgate (2011); The Kindred). The Bandai Visual Company-Ozla Productions movie stars Kent McCord, James T. Callahan, Sarah Douglas and Melinda Clarke.
The film is the second sequel to The Return of the Living Dead (1985), following Return of the Living Dead Part II (1987). Special effects make-up was provided by Kevin Brennan, Steve Johnson, Christopher Nelson, Timothy Ralston and Wayne Toth.
Curt Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmond) steals his father’s security key card, and he and his girlfriend, Julie (Melinda Clarke), explore the military base where his father works. They observe an experiment involving a deceased body (Clarence Epperson).
The corpse is exposed to 2-4-5 Trioxin gas, which re-animates the corpse into a zombie. The military hopes to use zombies in combat. However, they are impossible to control as their hunger for human brains causes them to constantly attack.
To deter the zombies’ vicious nature, Sinclair suggests permanently attaching the zombies to exoskeletons that will immobilize them when they are not in battle. Reynolds prefers a method referred to as “paretic infusion”, which causes an endothermic reaction, freezing the zombie’s brain and temporarily immobilizing it. When the paretic infusion method is tested on the zombie in the lab, it is only successful for a few moments, wearing off much faster than expected; the zombie breaks free and attacks a scientist…
Review: The 1990s were not a great time for the horror genre, as it fell out of favour with both the general public and filmmakers – most horror films of the era are pretty forgettable and insipid affairs, frankly. One director who did buck the trend was Brian Yuzna, who emerged from the shadows of producing films such as Re-Animator and From Beyond to directing the likes of Society.
When handed the reign of a third Return of the Living Dead film, he was under no obligation to either connect it to the earlier films – the odd reference aside – or make a horror-comedy. The resulting film is one of the finest horror films of the decade – a straight-faced, gory slice of nihilism with Julie (Melinda ‘Mindy’ Clarke) and her boyfriend Curt (J. Trevor Edmond), who revives her after a motorcycle accident using zombie chemical Trioxin.
While this brings her back, she is cursed with a ravenous hunger for human brains, and as the pair flee both the military and a pissed-off street gang, Curt has to come to terms with what she has become, while Julie – only too aware that she is no longer human – resorts to body piercing and self-inflicted pain to keep the hunger at bay… at least for a little while.
Memorably, the film is peppered with references to the body modification scene, which Yuzna quite openly acknowledged as a fascination at the time – the cover image of Clarke is one of the most iconic of the era, and remarkably, it doesn’t even come close to reflecting the impact of her appearance, late in the film, as a fully pierced, dominatrix.
Yet, the film doesn’t skimp on the traditional horror elements, with some of the most extraordinary gore sequences you’ll ever see – even now, these are remarkable and often painful. Beyond all the sensationalist visuals though, the film is really carried by Clarke, who creates a monster who is sympathetic, tragic, terrifying and sexy – quite an achievement.
There was no reason for Return of the Living Dead III to be any good at all. That it turned out to be a superior horror movie was an unexpected treat, especially at a time when the genre as a whole was in what felt like a terminal decline.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
” …it’s chock-full of brain-munching zombies, campy dialogue, and gross anatomical effects – but it’s that touch of amore that makes this one so special.” Entertainment Weekly
“Return of the Living Dead 3 is a romantic fright film laden with heavy gore and played entirely straight. The scares and the romance work, which makes our R0TLD3 even more of a rarity than a non-despicable horror-comedy! […] Giving proper kudos to the creature design, the real credit goes to Melinda Clarke for pulling this off.” Mike “McBeardo” McFadden, Heavy Metal Movies
“It’s messy around the edges and more than often relies on cheap thrills to get a kick out of you. Nonetheless, it is one of the purest examples of cult genre filmmaking that I would happily recommend to those who enjoy their horror flicks with lashings of gore, commitment to corn and memorable characters with cosplay potential.” The Hollywood News
” …Clarke tries to make the most of her after-death angst […] little more than a twisted catalogue of fetishistic imagery for horror movie aficionados keen to have a female zombie they can actually find attractive.” Arnold T. Blumberg, Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For
Cast and characters:
Seventh Street Bridge, Los Angeles, California Santa Clarita Studios – 25135 Anza Drive, Santa Clarita, California
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1