July 25, 2009

REVIEW: Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)


Return of the
Living Dead 3

Director: Brian Yuzna

RATING: 3.5 / 5 zedheads

Like Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet,
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 has its own elements of star-crossed romance and tragedy but with more brain eating and self-mutilation. In short, Return of the Living Dead 3 is a decent zombie film that offers an interesting romantic twist in the ROTLD franchise. If you can suffer through some dull love-story pacing and some seriously outdated effects and rubber zombie masks, there is a satisfying movie to be had. This is achieved in no small part by the presence of the provocative Melinda Clarke who steals the show as Julie Walker.

There's a very good reason she's number five on my list of the TOP FIVE SEXIEST ZOMBIES.

Julie and Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) are teen lovers in Los Angeles, and like all disaffected youth in the 1990s they are nihilistic rebels without a cause. The 1990s were after all the age of Nirvana. It is no surprise then that, like most teens his age, Curt (whose name is quite probably a reference to Kurt Cobain) dreams of being a drummer in a band. Because music is, like, his life! And that's because he's not had much of a good one -- a life that is. Curt's an army brat, his mother is dead, and he's had to move around each time his dad gets relocated. Now Curt's dad is heading a secret military project at the local base. On the other hand, Curt is feeling pretty good these days since he has Julie -- his sexy, redheaded, thrill-seeking, fishnet-wearing girlfriend. She convinces him to steal one of his dad's security cards so they can sneak into the base and see what's going on. This will be the first of many moves that proves Curt is perhaps one of the world's premier idiots.

Sneaking into the base is a bad move because the army isn't conducting the usual experiments with nuclear bombs, agent orange, or anthrax -- you know, the safe stuff. No, they're fucking around with 2-4-5 Trioxin, the chemical that brings the dead back to life in an enraged fury for brains! Scientists are applying 2-4-5 Trioxin, which created the zombies in Return of the Living Dead and the Return of the Living Dead: Part II, to corpses in order to bring them back to life as potential military weapons. Although the zombies can not be killed except through cremation or extreme electrocution (at least according to the first two movies), the military is testing a way of paralyzing the zombies so they can be collected, contained, and reused.

Julie and Curt witnesses an emaciated yellow corpse brought back to life, howling in pain and rage. You see, it sucks to be dead, and only the sweet, comforting taste of brains helps to momentarily dull that pain. Being a zombie simply doesn't look or feel pleasant. Later in the movie, Curt should have remembered how freaked out he was by the emaciated yellow corpse after Julie dies in a motorcycle crash. But no, Curt is an idiot. Curt decides to sneak her into the base and use 2-4-5 Trioxin to bring her back to life. As he bumbles around, he also manages to release a zombie from one of the Trioxin canisters, which runs amok as he escapes with a reanimated Julie. From this point on, Curt is directly responsible for everyone who dies (and lots of people die). Good job, Romeo!

For some reason (perhaps it's her bond with Curt or her lack of brain decay), Julie seems to be her normal self. However, she starts to change. Soon the cravings for brains and flesh begin, which makes escaping the military difficult after she draws attention to herself by taking a bite out of a hostile Latino thug at a convenience store. And her bite is contagious too -- anyone she bites will also reanimate as a zombie (which is the first time this element of zombie lore was incorporated into the ROTLD films). She finds that the only thing that keeps the hunger at bay is inflicting pain upon herself. Sexy Julie spends the whole movie stepping on broken glass, cutting her skin with rusty wires and springs, and shoving any sharp and pointed piece of scrap metal found in the sewers through her skin. Eventually, the hunger becomes too much, so she has to get really extreme. By the end of the movie, she looks like a Cenobite's wet dream.

So, Curt and Julie the zombie masochistic are on the run, chased by the military and by the vengeful Latino thugs they crossed. Along the way they meet a homeless man called "Riverman" (Basil Wallace) who encourages Curt to follow his dreams. Curt seems too easy to gravitate towards this guy as a father figure given that Riverman is clearly mentally unstable. This will not be the last of Curt's fatally poor life-choices.

Lots of people die. You'd think this would be exciting, but there are many slow scenes in which Curt constantly ditches Julia and then goes back to save her even though Julie is turning into a raving cannibal. In doing this, he constantly allows Julie to meet new people and then create a chaos of shooting, biting, beatings, and brain eating as he attempts to get her away from those people. But then there's angst which really slows down the pace of the film.

I find it funny that Curt seems more than willing to risk killing the whole world to run away with Julie. Oh, such a more apt metaphor for young love I have not seen. And just like Juliet, Julie's romance with Curt ends tragically as she follows Curt's plan to escape responsibility for the mess they've made in the most painful way possible.

But, thankfully, idiotic Curt's not the heart of the movie even though he is the lead character. It's Julie. Played by Clarke, Julie really does undergo quite the physical and emotional transformation as moods swing down to wild depths of pain and up to crazy animal fury. Although a number of zombies in this film suffer from being nothing more than actors in rubber suits, the special makeup effects on most zombies, especially Julie, work quite well. The effects are realistic enough that it's painful to watch Julie cut herself and mutilate her body. She also looks wicked fierce. I both love her and am disgusted by her. That is why I have composed the following song!


Oh Julie!
Well, you came back as a freaky zombie
And stuck shrapnel in your veins, oh Julie
Then you bit me and stopped me from screaming
cause you ate out my brains. Oh, Julie!

For Melinda Clarke's role as Julie, for an interesting twist on the Trioxin zombies of the previous two ROTLD films, and for some decent special makeup effects, Return of the Living Dead 3 has enough moments to warrant a rental, but it doesn't even come close to catching the fun and energy of the original Return of the Living Dead.