August 6, 2014

Movie Review: Return of the Living Dead 3

After spending an evening revisiting the classic Return of the Living Dead and discovering that I had never seen Return of the Living Dead Part II, I decided to complete the trifecta and watch Return of the Living Dead 3 (which I know I had seen before). There is nothing like spending some time with some zombies, sure they are pretty much everywhere these days, but that has not diminished their effectiveness, it just might take a touch longer to uncover the good ones. In any case, the third return film is my second favorite of the three (we won't bother with those two that were on TV later on). This one also changes the formula, while remaining a recognizable part of the series.

Return of the Living Dead 3 does not only offer another way of signifying its sequel status (the second was Part II and now we simply get 3), it changes the approach completely. It still feels like a Return film, but it is considerably less jokey and certainly more personal and tragic. It is like they went out of their way to avoid repeating themselves again. While the second one had a very meta quality to it, sharing cast and dialogue with its predecessor, this one goes out of its way to change it up.

Brian Yuzna handles the directorial duties this time around, and his involvement immediately signals this as change of pace. He has been involved in a number of excellent low budget genre films as either director or producer over the years, so he came into this project with a proven track record. Consider some of the titles on his resume: Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, Warlock, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Bride of Re-Animator. With a script by John Penney (The Kindred), Yuzna went and made an engrossing zombie flick that is worth your time.

We are introduced to star crossed lovers Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) and Julie (Mindy Clarke). They sneak into a military facility where Curt's father, Colonel John Reynolds (Farscape's Kent McCord), is involved in a top secret experiment. The experiment is to turn corpses into soldiers using the chemical Trioxin (famously introduced in the first Return film). Curt and Julie witness one of the tests and watch as a corpse is reanimated and kills one of the technicians. This rightfully freaks them out.

Back at home, Curt is informed that his father is being reassigned and he needs to let go of Julie. The rebellious teen storms out with Julie close behind, taking off on his motorcycle. This leads to tragic turning point. They have an accident and Julie is killed. The distraught Curt takes her body to the base and exposes her to the reanimation agent. The freshness of her body allows her to come back somewhat like herself, but with the addition of a hunger she cannot satisfy.

What follows is a essentially a chase film. The couple go on the run, Julie trying to figure out what is wrong with her and Curt trying to figure out what is happening to her. Curt's father leading the military in pursuit of them, not to mention the group of thugs the two cross at a convenience store. It is a path that cannot go well for anyone involved.

This is certainly a change of pace from the first two films, it has some dark humor, but it is much less of a comedy than the others. What the movie really is is a Romeo and Juliet styled tragedy. It is a love story that cannot have a good outcome. It is 90's era rebellious angst played out with the backdrop of a zombie movie. Just watch as the couple struggle with the changes that inflict themselves on their lives, be it Curt's father trying to drive them apart, and having the opposite effect, or the poor decision to use the chemical on his dead girlfriend leading to all that follows. It is actually very involving.

The movie is an entertaining zombie film that has more substance to it than you might think. I love the idea of a fresh corpse being reanimated in a near-human like state. I like the idea of pain being able to stave off the hunger, leading to a zombie take on body modification. The relationship between our leads is also interesting to watch, as they go through many different phases as they flee authorities and discover more about themselves and their rapidly changing situation.

What else is there to say? Return of he Living Dead 3 is a really good movie. It features some nice effects, a good score by Barry Goldberg (although it reminds me a lot of Richard Band), and a nice twist on the old zombie/human relationship. This is a familiar story told in inventive fashion, benefiting for a cast with good chemistry and a director willing to do a little something different.


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