Director: Brian Yuzna | Run time: 92 minutes | Vestron Video | On sale 28th August (although this could change)
In Return of the Living Dead: Part II, the chemical Trioxin turned people into flesh-eating zombies. Now, the government is trying to control these unstoppable cannibalistic killers in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3. When a young man uses the chemical to bring his girlfriend back to life after a motorcycle accident, she is driven to eat the only thing that will nourish her…human brains! She tries to stop her own feeding frenzy but a chain reaction has already begun, as hordes of undead are unleashed from their graves!
Having already reviewed Bud the Chud and Waxwork in the newly-launched-in-the-UK Vestron Collector’s Series, Infernal Cinema finishes its reviews of the collection by casting an eye over the most anticipated of the lot: Return of the Living Dead III.
Part three in the successful Living Dead franchise, this flick takes what was in the previous two entries and goes for something different. The end result is a strange hybrid of all out zombie horror and a very post modern take on Romeo and Juliet.
The original Return of the Living Dead came in 1985, from John A Russo and has became a cult favourite for many reasons. There are the effects, the direction, the black humour and a naked Linnea Quigley. The first sequel arrived in 1988, which turned the black humour up to 11 and had a zombie Michael Jackon. But part three has aesthetic and vibe all of its own.
This is no doubt because of the titles director, the hero of horror that is Brian Yuzna. He is a man that has either produced, written or directed some of the most endure cult flicks of the eighties, with an eye for the macabre quite unlike his contemporaries. Having produced the likes of Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) and Warlock (1989) he has directed Society (1989) and The Dentist (1996), amongst others. RotLD III was his fourth stint in the directors chair and it does not disappoint.
The humour is replaced by a more serious tone, with the script devoid of jokes. The zombies here are not zany looking, goggle-eyed shuffling corpses but violent, quick and terrifying looking threats to other characters. Yuzna attempts to get more backstory on the gas leak that causes the dead to come back to life, why they need ‘braaaains’ and creates a movie that feels like it could stand alone from the franchise it resides in.
There is the intriguing addition of a love story, that has such importance placed on it it is clear what Yuzna wants it to mean. Julie resisting the urge to devour her lover Curt due to their ‘undying love’ for one another is a interesting way to explore the concept of love and its true power. A little far fetched in some ways, but it is nice to think if your loved one turned into a zombie they’d rather not eat you out of affection. The ending of RotLD III makes it clear which wins the battle out of these contrasting emotions.
Mindy/Melinda Clarke is stunning to look at, which is no doubt the main reason she was cast, but the transformation of her appearance come the end of the movie is the lasting impression people take away from RotLD III. Her continued efforts to self harm to stop her urge to eat her lover sees her take it to the extreme as Julie mutilates and impales metal and glass all over her body. The resulting look is a strangely erotic one, Yuzna makes sure that Clarke retains her sexuality. A photo of Clarke in this outfit has been used on most VHS/DVD/Blu-ray releases in the decades since and was used in much of the movies marketing at the time, obviously Yuzna knew this was a winner.
As a byproduct of Yuzna making the franchise serious, his movie is filled with impressive gore effects. From the opening with a ultra skinny zombie (played by a homeless man called Clarence who they found in an airport) to people being mauled by the undead, its stunning what was achieved on this title considering the budget and the era. Its practical SFX like this that shows CGI isn’t always the way to go.
The high def does expose some weaknesses, it is apparent some sets are flimsy prop walls and Clarke is wearing way too much make up when not a zombie. But other than that the gore scenes benefit a lot.
Pick of the extras.
Interview with Yuzna and John Penney (26 mins) – The director has a chat with co-producer and writer Penney in a new interview in which the pair have a good time remembering why they did the feature, why they took the franchise in a different direction and reveal some little known secrets about the feature.
Interview with Melinda Clarke (18 mins) – Looking good for her age (aka has a good plastic surgeon), Clarke talks about how she was cast, the horror genre being between phases at the time, how she tried to give her character a certain appearance and of course addresses that zombie self harm attire.
Interview with David Tripet (13 mins) – The production executive tells how Trimark ended up with the franchise rights, the decision to make the movie more serious than the previous releases, the love story aspect of the plot being used to lure in non-horror fans and, of course, the production itself.
Interview with Chris Nelson and Steve Johnson (18 mins) – Partly responsible for the great special effects in RotLD III, the pair give an insight on how their work was done, why they took the effects in a certain direction and more. Anthony Hickox puts in a surprise appearance. The extra is filled with behinds the scene footage of the production.