You know the score by now; military grade chemical has the ability to animate corpses who become brain-hungry zombies, chaos, panic, fighting, blood, guts, gore….welcome to the 2nd sequel to the successful “Return of the Living Dead” (1985), it’s not really like what I have just described it would be.
Brief description: Kids witness a covert military procedure using a chemical called Trioxin which can bring the dead back to life. One of the kid’s dies in an accident. When the survivor can’t face life with his lover the chemical is used to bring the dearly departed back to life. Queue a zombie outbreak.
Detailed description: Colonel John Reynolds is secretly testing Trioxin for the military, it has the ability to bring the dead back to life. Secretly watching the procedure is his son Curt, and his goth girlfriend Julie, who have managed to sneak into the complex. When heating bad news the young lovers make an escape, only they are involved in an accident which results in Julie losing her life. With the knowledge of what Trioxin can do, Curt brings Julie back to the military lab and tries to resurrect her. He is successful but Julie is changed, she doesn’t feel pain and she has an insatiable hunger, but regular food just wont do. She claims that inflicting damage on herself, even though she doesn’t really feel it much, helps her deal with the hunger she is feeling, so she becomes a human pincushion with piercings, spikes, and all sorts stuck into her body. They go on the run, resulting in lots of chaos. The more damage that Julie does to people around her, the more she passes the zombie virus on to others. When the military eventually do track the lovers down they have other zombies to deal with. The army want to use Julie as a weapon, in his anger about this Curt get’s bitten. Both now infected Curt decides the best plan is to reinact the ending of “Romeo and Julliet”, but instead of poison, a firery grave might be best.
Film stuff: Brian Yuzna directs this 1993 film. Prior to this I became aware of Yuzna as he directed two of my favourite cheesy horror films, “Society” (1989) and “Re-Animator 2” (1990) (looking ahead he would also be at the helm for “The Dentist” (1996) and “The Dentist 2” (1998) which I have a secret love for too). John Penny wrote this film, with Gerry Lively doing cinematography work and Christopher Roth editing (Roth also edited “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988) which is one of my all-time favourite films).
Cast: Playing Colonel John Reynolds is Kent McCord who appeared as Unger in “Airplane II: The Sequel” (1982), Captain Troy in the TV series “Galactica 1980” (1980), and Captain Pilgrim in “Predator 2” (1990). James T. Callahan plays Colonel Peck, who has appeared in various TV shows throughout the 60’s – 80’s. Sarah Douglas plays Colonel Sinclair, who you have to remember from the Superman film’s of the 70’s and 80’s – she was frikkin “Ursa”, one of the Krytonian bad-guys that beats Christopher Reeves up! They do decent jobs as military hot shots; they are firm and confident and do their job well in their roles. John Reynold’s probably gets to show the most range in is acting as he is dealing with the tribulations of his on-screen son. Speaking of which, J. Trevor Edmond plays his son, Curt. Prior to this film I had not seen Edmond in anything, but he does ok enough. At times, the performance is cheesy and unconvincing, but could that be as a result of the direction and script rather than his performance(?). I doubt I would be as calm if I caught my girlfriend munching down on the brains of an injured stranger. The real star of the show here is Melinda Clarke as Julie Walker. This film, and her role as Candy in “Killer Tongue” (1996), were real stand out moments in her career for me as a teenager. I am not quite sure she would agree, but I enjoyed watching her anyway. In this film she is sultry and brooding, probably as she is playing a goth-chick gone bad, well, gone dead. She manages to sell her performance as much with her delivery of dialogue as she does with her body. Yes, she is objectified in this film, but that is a sign of the times and probably would not wash too well these days. The more the film goes on, the less clothes she seems to have on, until the point she is practically topless. Yes, it is the same Melinda Clarke that would later go on to play roles in “Gotham“, “The O.C.” and “Spawn” (1997).
For the fans of this series, see if you can find Brain “Scuz” Peck in this film!
Wrap up: Made with a budget of around $2million, this film was a massive flop grossing a mere $54,207 when it was released. This 97-minutes film features the infamous Trioxin 2-4-5 formula which was seen in the first two films. With the name of the film suggesting a sequel in a similar vain to the first and second film, and with the inclusion of the Trioxin 2-4-5 formula, audience expectations were shattered when certain aspects and approaches in this film were never delivered. Once shattered, that expectation was mushed into tiny pieces when a mere 17 deaths happened in the film.
So, let us be straight, this is not a carbon copy of the last film. Despite the title of “Return of the Living Dead 3”, this is a completely new and original film in the series. The whole plot of the film is original in comparison to the other films which I must give Yuzna credit for. Where the first two films in this series were nearly the same as each other, this film takes things in a different route. It drops the comedy and slapstick and instead has more serious themes. The film may be based in the horror genre, but it feels much more like a romantic tragedy – two lovers that cannot deal with the pain of being apart. They sacrifice parts of themselves and their humanity all the way to the end, and beyond. While it might sound Shakespearian it also has parallels with “Frankenstein” as much as it does “Romeo and Juliette” too which is commendable. It is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it is a low-budget film don’t forget, but it is a powerful film that is driven by emotion and questions of existentialism. With decent and at times good acting, and themes that are more horrific than then zombies in the film, this is better than you might expect – It certainly is better than the second film in the series anyway. Perhaps in hindsight, this film might have been better appreciated is it had not of had the “Return of the Living Dead” title it came out with because that really undersells what a lovely moving film this can be.
If you are a hardcore fan of the first two “Return of the Living Dead” films, you can safely skip this. Due to the graphic nature of blah blah blah – it has got nudity, sex, violence, gore, and all sorts of blood in it so do not let your young kids watch it. Decent, not brilliant, but better than I expected both the first time I watched it, and twenty years later. Low budget, unmistakably 90’s film, with just as much dialogue heavy cheesy soap opera moments as it has zombie.