We all have our favourite zombie movies, don't we? For many it will be perennial classics like Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD, and quite rightly so. While I do love that flick, my two favourites have to be Shaun of the Dead (2004) and this one here, Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993). This film is dear to my heart as I saw it at the height of my addiction to VHS rentals from Metro Video in Sheffield, my old stomping ground.
There is something about this film that works extremely well. While it lacks the gonzoid brilliance of the first or the slapstick comedy of the second, it has a unique atmosphere and fascination for me. Really a sequel in name only (as well as the inclusion of the Trioxin chemical that brought the dead back in the first two), it was directed by none other than Brian Yuzna and is pretty much a perfect horror film to these eyes. The budget was clearly limited, but the production doesn't suffer from the lack of a massive wad of cash. If anything, it makes it work even better.
ROTLD3 concerns a military operation to use a new form of Trioxin to animate the dead and turn them into zombie soldiers. The son of a Colonel and his girlfriend Julie (the awesome Mindy Clarke) discover what's going on (they originally believe that animals are being experimented on and set off to disrupt the operation). In the chaos that ensues, a zombie outbreak kicks off and soon Julie is infected with the Trioxin (by her boyfriend no less – he gives it to her after she is killed in a motorbike accident).
She begins to transform, but amidst the bloody mayhem as zombies begin to attack a nearby town, Julie discovers she is able to hold on to her humanity by causing herself pain. Thus begins her transformation into a horrifically modified half-zombie version of herself, covered in shards of broken glass, nails rammed through her hands, her body pierced and mutilated to the point that she looks like a Cenobite from the Hellraiser movies.
It's a shocking and shockingly effective visual, and she is electrifying once her metamorphosis is complete, becoming almost a zombie superhero as she battles against the undead while fighting off her own cravings for brains. Yuzna's direction makes the most of a decent cast and a tight budget, and Return of the Living Dead 3 leaves the viewer satisfied on many levels. There is plenty of gore to be found, but there's also a compelling story and enough tension and thrills to maintain interest for 90 minutes.
The film's third act is brilliant, and a near-perfect example of low-budget horror moviemaking at its best. Evocative of an era very dear to me, I like to think that it isn't just nostalgia that colours my opinion of this film. I really do think it's one of the greatest zombie movies ever made. Now, I want some braaaaaaiiiiinnnssss.....