Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)
Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Release Date: October 29th, 1993 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Brian Yuzna Actors: Mindy Clarke, J. Trevor Edmond, Kent McCord, Sarah Douglas, James T. Callahan, Mike Moroff, Fabio Urena, Pia Reyes, Abigail Lenz




ieutenant Colonel Sinclair (Sarah Douglas) from Washington meets up with Colonel John Reynolds (Kent McCord) to review the latest developments on a top secret military project – involving some inhumane experimentations. The government continues to toy with Trioxin, a potent biochemical that brought the dead back to life in the ’60s, hoping to find a use for such a miraculous substance. Intended for warfare, the gaseous toxin can reanimate dead flesh; but there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop it once it’s active. Zombies just don’t want to chill out … and they thirst for human brains.

Meanwhile, rebellious, curious, obsessed-with-death troublemaker Julie Walker (Mindy Clarke) acquires a key card from her motorcycle-riding, hard-rock-drummer boyfriend Curtis Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmond), the Colonel’s son, in order to sneak into the restricted facility to spy on the Trioxin testing. Despite the grisly nature of an emaciated, pasty corpse regaining its mobility, Julie is amazed by the results. “This is really warped!”

When Colonel Reynolds is reassigned to Oklahoma City, he informs Curt to pack his bags. But the defiant youth has a life and he has friends; he’s not willing to be moved around yet again. After a heated argument, Curt tears off down the road on his bike with Julie, only to become spooked by an oncoming truck, resulting in a crash that kills the red-headed goth girlfriend. Scared and angry, he returns to the military installation with Julie’s lifeless body, thinking that if he can only inject her with Trioxin, he might be able to bring her back to life.

Whereas the first two “Return of the Living Dead” pictures were primarily comedies, fused with over-the-top horror and exploitation elements, this third entry is far more terrifying. Right from the start, the violence is severer, the blood effects more realistic, and the disfiguring zombie attacks far more gruesome. Crimson paint splashes all over the white walls of the lab, medical instruments repeatedly pierce flesh, and bodily fluids ooze from orifices and wounds. There’s still some dark humor to be found, but it’s mostly in the film’s R-rated excess; it’s too subtle for belly laughs.

Thanks to producer/director Brian Yuzna, “Return of the Living Dead 3” shares more with the “Re-Animator” sequels and “Society” than it does its franchise predecessors. The special makeup effects are fantastic, making the most of practical designs and rubbery, slimy grotesqueries. It’s extreme, but in a campy sort of way, which prevents it from being too disturbing; the blend of action, chaos, confusion, and a love story nicely complements the gore and body horror, especially when Julie adopts her own craving for cranial spaghetti. As the film progresses, the carnage grows more creative and destructive, highlighted by her escalating desire to mutilate herself to alleviate her hunger (perhaps some deeply buried commentary on self-harm). Barry Goldberg’s music is also sensationally macabre (if a bit derivative of “Aliens” at times).

The acting isn’t perfect (Edmond is the weakest link), but Clarke does a fine job of mining sympathy for her role – a self-aware zombie who didn’t ask to be brought back to life. Amusingly, plenty of supporting players also impact the plot; not only are government goons encumbrances, but also a gang of street thugs track Julie and Curt for revenge. Since the protagonist is a monster, it’s only fitting that others serve as the true villains. Plus, an unlikely ally makes an appearance in the form of a wild-eyed, homeless “riverman” (Basil Wallace). For a straightforward horror movie, the pacing is slightly off, but the thrills and repulsiveness are consistent, while the similarities to the plights seen in “Frankenstein,” “The Fly,” and “The Wolf Man” are entirely stimulating. Visually, a David Cronenberg, Clive Barker, and John Carpenter vibe is also quite entertaining, turning the venture into something as tragic as it is ghastly; as comically bleak as it is nightmarish. And it has a hell of a coda, following up a spine-tingling climax with a perversely poetic finale and parting shot.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10