As much as I rag on how bad the sequels to Return of the Living Dead are, I have to admit to rely liking this one when it came out. That was in part because I was pretty similar to the main protagonist, same hairstyle and clothes, a dad in the military and I’d just broken up with my girlfriend who looked just like the girl in this movie.
So although I don’t think it’s a particularly good movie, I figured it was time to sit down and bang out a review of Return of the Living Dead part 3.
This is actually the DVD cover but it says everything. Julie Walker is THE central character of the movie. Not much else about the movie really matters and as such there’s not much to the poster. It’s actually disappointingly simple; blood red backdrop with a full moon and the silhouette of a crappy tree. it doesn’t look like a poster for a real movie so much as a kids Halloween party.
This story plays out like Romeo and Juliet where Romeo is the son of the military commander in charge of doing experiments with trioxin gas and Juliet, Julie, is his recently deceased girlfriend. I don’t mean to give anything away but you can probably guess that like Romeo and Juliet this is going to turn into tragedy.
And just in case you forgot trioxin gas is the gas the military used which went haywire and caused the corpses of the dead to reanimate and come back seeking the brains of the living.
The best part of the movie really is the performance given by Melinda Clarke, who plays Julie. She’s basically a recent returned girl who is struggling with the fact that she’s aware that she’s dead, doesn’t want to be, and is trying to avoid hurting the people around her that she cares about. It’s the first time in one of these movies we really get to follow how it feels to become a zombie from the zombie’s point of view. We got a little bit of that in the first two Return movies, more so in the first than the second, but this one goes much deeper into the emotions of the person who’s turning. And in order to play that without coming across as silly or comical it really took a lot of effort on the part of the actress and I can’t say she did a bad job.
One other thing this movie did right was getting away from the humor of the second film.
Like a lot of B movies from this time there is a level of realism they get up to that is just believable within the movie but never really rises to the level of total believability. The characters are mostly archetypes and don’t feel like fully realized individuals.
Many of the effects, although gory and awesome, seem designed only to shock. That is, they’re just obvious gimmicks. One zombie that had rotted in a tank for a long time comes out with its head, arm and shoulder fused. Yeah, it looks pretty nasty, but it looks like the effects people through it in there just for the sake of having another nasty monster, not because it fit the story or was particularly believable.
Counter that zombie with the super skinny zombie who’s being experimented on in the lab. This guy looks fantastic. It’s an actor in simple makeup who really is incredibly skinny, his zombie character builds the story, scares the hell out of us, and looks incredible. That is an incredible zombie. Counter that against the gang boss who walks around with his spine sticking out with his head on top like some kind of zombie giraffe. It’s just laughable.
Whenever I do these reviews I always have the good the bad and the ugly. But I’m making a slight change in this case, because Melinda Clarke as Julie really is incredibly beautiful. She’s one of the most memorable female zombies out there. So even though this movie ranks pretty low on my list, her zombie character stands out as one of the top most memorable zombies I’ve seen.
I even illustrated her one time. Just click here to check out that image.