Coming to Blu-ray remastered and restored as part of the brilliant Vestron Collectors Series Return of the Living Dead III also gets a screening at this years FrightFest hopefully reminding a host of horror fans what a great franchise the Return of the Living Dead really is.
For those not in the know the Return of the Living Dead came about after John A. Russo and George A. Romero split up the Night of the Living Dead movie into two distinct franchises Romero taking the Living Dead part and Russo getting the Dead which lead to his novel titled well you guessed it.
The 1985 movie written and directed by Dan O’Bannon balanced black comedy and barmy gore with the plot line featuring a set of sinister military canisters which we are told contain the real zombies which inspired the movie Night of the Living Dead.
These brain eating zombies are produced by the deadly Trioxin gas a military experiment gone wrong and it is this concept of the governments attempts to transform the living dead into a unholy army which opens Return of the Living Dead III.
On a very insecure military base Colonel John Reynolds (Kent McCord from Predator 2) has come up with an innovative way to control the monstrous beings created from Trioxin for use on the battlefield using a high powered gun that freezes them rendering them harmless. Performing an experiment on a corpse things seem to go well that is until it reanimates and rips the arm off one of the technicians causing a blood bath and Reynolds being kicked off the whole project.
This bloody disturbing incident just happens to be witnessed by Colonel Reynolds son Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) and his risk taking girlfriend Julie (Vampire Diaries Melinda Clarke) who have stolen an access card and have no way of understanding what they have just seen. Returning home Julie is fascinated by the living dead but Curt remains horrified particularly by his fathers involvement in such an inhuman experiment.
When his Dad gets back he breaks the news to Curt that the pair will have to move now he has been reassigned however the boy rebels refusing to go and ridding off on his motorcycle with Julie in tow to start a new life together. Tragically when they swerve to avoid a truck Julie is hurled into a tree and dies instantly but Curt wont except loosing his girl and has an idea involving his Dad’s key card and some Trioxin gas.
Directed by one of the greats of horror Brian Yuzna himself Return of the Living Dead III brings a new level of grossness to the franchise with some spectacular special effects and innovative ideas the type you only really see in a Yuzna film.
From the various nasty experiments going on in the base to the deformed barrel dwelling zombie at the start to the latino gangster zombie with his spine pulled out giving him a flailing giraffe like neck to the disturbing exoskeleton zombie at the end which the military have authorised using instead of Colonel Reynolds freeze gun, there are plenty of unhinged and unbelievable moments to keep horror fans happy.
Best of all is the transformation of Julie into a S&M zombie death machine impaled with glass, nails and more creating a iconic horror monster that is actually far more interesting and thorough provoking than being the simple sequel gimmick you might imagine.
In its themes Return of the Living Dead III is very different from many other threequels as instead of just throwing more zombies and more death onto of the same plot line as before Yuzna crafts a tale of military morality and teenage trouble.
Using the zombie infection as not only a stand in for drug addiction with Julia becoming more and more addicted to eating people the further along she gets it also investigates ideas of self harm and depression with Curt caught up as her enabler. Julia is seen at the start burning herself and her ultimate extremely painful punk rock piercings she puts herself through are explained by the fact that when she feels pain she forgets about her hunger.
Having proven the living dead not only have a semblance of conciseness but continually suffer, the dark ending where the true brutality and disregard for the zombies rights and tormented lives is displayed to Curt is a shockingly downbeat and serious demonstrating that sequels don’t have to be dumb to be fun.
A must see for zombie fans and Yuzna aficionados Return of the Living Dead III is far better than most Part Threes offering up entertainment and great horror along with some more meaningful moments that would have made Romero proud.
Return of the Living Dead 3 screens at Horror Channel FrightFest on 25th August, 2017