Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) Trimark/Horror RT: 97 minutes Rated R (horror violence and gore, language, nudity, sex) Director: Brian Yuzna Screenplay: John Penney Music: Barry Goldberg Cinematography: Gerry Lively Release date: October 29, 1993 (US) Cast: J. Trevor Edmond, Mindy Clarke, Kent McCord, Sarah Douglas, James T. Callahan, Basil Wallace, Mike Moroff, Fabio Urena, Pia Reyes, Sal Lopez, Dana Lee, Billy Kane, Anthony Hickox. Box Office: $54,207 (US)
Return of the Living Dead 3 never played theatrically here in Philadelphia. I would have known and been all over it. No matter how old I get, I will never pass up a horror sequel, regardless of quality. I knew it was coming out as I saw the trailer before Warlock: The Armageddon at a pre-release screening in September ’93. I also saw the trailer for Death Wish V: The Face of Death which hit theaters the following January for a one-week run. I didn’t see Return of the Living Dead 3 until it played on cable later in ’94. I thought it would be horrible but it was actually pretty good. It’s better than Return of the Living Dead Part II, a statement I continue to stand by to this day.
It’s different from the previous entries in that it no longer has a comedic tone. It’s more of a straight-up horror flick with significantly more gore than the previous installment. Also, this is the first ROTLD movie in which the zombie infection is spread through biting as well as exposure to Trioxin. They still want to eat brains through.
In Return of the Living Dead 3, a young couple discovers that there is fate worse than death when one of them uses Trioxin to bring the other back to life after a fatal motorcycle accident. It all starts when Curt (Edmond, Pumpkinhead II) and Julie (Clarke, TV’s Nikita) sneak onto the military base where Curt’s father, Colonel Reynolds (McCord, Adam-12), is overseeing a project that involves using Trioxin to turn corpses into super-soldiers. They watch in horror as the test goes horribly wrong with fatal results. Reynolds is immediately removed and reassigned to Oklahoma City, something that doesn’t go over well with his son. Refusing to move yet again, he storms out with Julie and they hop on his bike to run away together. That’s when they get into an accident that kills Julie.
A distraught Curt returns to the facility (he still has the ID card he stole from his dad) and uses the Trioxin to bring her back. How he goes unnoticed by all the armed soldiers on the base is anybody’s guess. While successful in his efforts to reanimate his dead girlfriend, the side effects prove to be a real ordeal. Seemingly normal at first, it soon becomes clear Julie is anything but. For one thing, when she says she’s hungry, it’s not for food. She craves human brains. A run-in with a Mexican gang in a bodega quickly turns bloody. Meanwhile, Reynolds leads the operation to capture Julie and bring her in before she spreads the zombie virus.
As if there isn’t enough going on in Return of the Living Dead 3, there’s also a villain in the form of Lt. Colonel Sinclair (Douglas, Superman II) who has different ideas of how to weaponize the living dead. It’s neither pretty nor humane. As always, the action takes place over the course of a single night. As it progresses, Julie’s condition worsens to the point where she gives herself multiple piercings all over her body in hopes that the pain will curb her appetite for humans. This will surely please the fetishists in the audience. I’m not into that sort of thing myself but I have to admit Julie looks sexy dangerous hot with all those spikes and nails sticking out of her flesh. It gives Return of the Living Dead 3 a punk-like edge.
While nowhere near as awesome as the movie that started it all, Return of the Living Dead 3 is a damn good horror flick. It has a decent amount of gore and splatter. The makeup effects are quite good. The blood-soaked finale is cool! It’s considered a horror movie but it’s really a love story at heart. It helps greatly that Edmond and Clarke, known to CSI fans as “Lady Heather”, make a likable couple. The acting is pretty good for this movie’s type. Basil Wallace, better known to B-movie fans as Screwface in the Steven Seagal actioner Marked for Death, plays a vagrant called Riverman. He helps our heroes out of a tight spot (on the infamous 6th Street Viaduct in L.A.) at a great cost to himself. I like his character. Douglas specializes in playing cold, cruel villains. Besides Superman II, she did the same in Conan the Destroyer, Solarbabies and The Return of Swamp Thing.
It’s a shame Trimark wasn’t around very long (they merged with Lions Gate in 2000). They released the kinds of movies that defined my teen years. I saw them as the heir to the throne vacated by New World Pictures. In fact, they picked up Warlock, one of NW’s last movies, for distribution after they folded in ’89. They also released Leprechaun (and its sequels), Death Wish V and The Stoned Age. Return of the Living Dead 3 is one of their best movies. It’s just a campy fun B-level horror flick that puts many of today’s scary movies to shame.