Curt Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmond) lives with his father Colonel Reynolds (Kent McCord), who works on the Army base nearby. The scientists there have been experimenting on a special gas that can bring the dead back to life, but has already proven problematic since it was the cause of a lot of accidental death itself when the reanimated proceeded to attack and kill the living to eat their brains. Curt knows nothing of this but his girlfriend Julie Walker (Melinda Clarke) is very interested indeed in what goes on behind the closed doors of the establishment and has contrived to persuade him to steal his father's pass card so they can sneak in and have a look around. So guess what they stumble upon when they do...
After the middling at best Return of the Living Dead Part II, nobody had high hopes for a second sequel, especially when the humour in that entry fell so flat, so what Brian Yuzna and his team did when they were brought in to revitalise the franchise was tone down the laughs and play the story straight. Many observed it would have been better received without the Return of the Living Dead title at all, though the plot was still recognisably connected to the first two with the inclusion of those barrels stuffed with dead bodies that had been afflicted with the dreaded gas, but there was something fresher about Part 3 that belied its essential cash in status, if a film featuring so much death and decomposition could be fresh.
Basically, this time around the format was a doomed romance, as the happy couple Curt and Julie find that not even true love lasts forever, although presumably it would if they never died, which seems to be the consequence of the undead state. It was Julie who was affected by the gas, though not when they break into the army lab, when they do that they just spy from an air duct the experiment that goes horribly and predictably wrong when the zombie takes a bite out of one of the scientists, their special zombie-handling gun they were testing obviously needed a little more work. Because of this mishap, Colonel Reynolds gets a transfer to another part of the country, news which dismays his son.
So Curt and Julie race off on a motorbike into the night to be themselves without any hassle from The Man, but wouldn’t you know it, because Julie is so frisky she manages to distract her boyfriend and they crash; she dies, he survives. Aware of the gas now, he drags her back to the lab and treats her to it, which brings her back to life, hungry, hungry life, and though she is conscious of what is happening, her undead demeanour means she will be too much for Curt to handle by and by. What this didn't have were scenes of a mass outbreak of zombies bearing down on our heroes and the citizens at large, so what you got was something different since Julie has to be managed, and she does have the habit of eating brains.
Yuzna was no stranger to makeup effects having worked in the relatively low budget horror field since the eighties, and while some of the rubbery examples may not have been one hundred percent convincing, they were presented with gusto and a few were very effective indeed. But what had everyone who saw this talking was the makeup on Melinda Clarke; though she appeared in a variety of different projects throughout her career, for horror fans she would always be the self-harming Julie who pierces her flesh with various bits of scrap she finds around the city as she and Curt flee the military and a small gang they have attacked, looking more like one of Clive Barker's Cenobites than your traditional zombie, and still an indelible image of nineties horror. The question here was, when a relationship is plainly doomed, when do you let go? And the lovers here were reluctant to do that since they are really all they have in the world, a surprisingly emotionally painful element, as opposed to the physically painful ones of other zombie movies. It was still goofy in places, and looks more so now, but for a third effort in a horror series, not half bad. Music by Barry Goldberg.
American director, writer and producer specialising in low-budget, darkly funny horror. Produced the classic Re-Animator in 1985, starting a long relationship with director Stuart Gordon for whom he also produced From Beyond and Dolls. Yuzna's directing debut was the bizarre, acclaimed horror/satire Society, which he followed in 1990 with Bride of Re-Animator. Return of the Living Dead III, The Dentist and Necronomicon all mixed splatter and humour in over-the-top style, and in 2000 Yuzna relocated to Barcelona to set up his own production company, Fantastic Factory, whose output includes the Yuzna-directed Faust and Beyond Re-Animator, the gothic werewolf yarn Romasanta and Stuart Gordon's Dagon.