Sunday, January 3, 2010

Forgotten Sequels: Return of the Living Dead 3

After the bizarre and quirky film that was Return of the Living Dead II, I did not know what to expect from this film. Would it be a silly film? Would it feature lots of over-the-top gore? As it turns out, it would only be the latter. This films is a stark contrast to its predecessor in both tone and scale of story. Unfortunately, for me, this did not always work. It does, however, has some really interesting ideas that, for the most part, feel organic to the series. You watch the characters explain their plans and think 'yeah, that makes sense.' Ultimately though, your like or dislike of the film will be based on the fact that it is- at heart- a character drama. It focuses for the most part on two people. If you don't connect with them, then the movie will fail. It's a real gamble that they took, but did it pay off? Find out in my review of...
The film begins by introducing us to the situation. First off, the military has kept the Living Dead creatures from the first two films around, since they cannot be killed. This sort of ignores the last two films in which they were killed by being melted, but alright. Secondly, we meet a daring, young couple with some ties to the military base. Most notably, the boy is the son of one of the military brass there. On this night, the military is testing out a new device created by the father to sedate the un-killable monsters. Meanwhile, the son shows up with his dad's stolen key-card and breaks into the model, er, I mean building. Apparently, the girl thinks that is hot to break into a military installation and spy on them. There's kinky and then there's that! A corpse- looking a lot like Doug Jones- is brought out, exposed to the gas and awakens. They test out their new device- basically, a giant paintball gun that freezes their brains- and it works. Unfortunately, it only works for a little while and the zombie starts killing the workers. By the way, the zombies have super-strength now...for some reason. So, losing all of your nervous system makes you stronger?

In the wake of this failure, a new woman- Superman II's Sarah Douglas- takes over the project and they want to transfer the father. The news of this freaks out the sun, who runs off with his lady pal. Faster than you can say 'this was a bad decision,' they crash and she dies. Because the plot requires it, he takes the girl back to the lab and puts her on the slab. He exposes her to the gas and she returns to life. Unfortunately, being forced back to life by a military toxin is not a pleasant experience. Throw in the fact that a zombie pops out and chases them as well & you have a night that is only getting worse. He stops off at a convenience store to get her some food, but none of the stuff seems to satiate her. They run across a group of Mexican Americans playing an arcade game...even though they are all at least thirty years old. Oh crap, these are going to be our villains, aren't they? They rob the place and shoot the owner, but he escapes with our heroes. During the fracas, the girl bites one of the men, which will come into play in about an hour. During an attempt to bring the man to the hospital, he gets killed by the police and feasted upon by our heroine. You see, they watched the guy come back to life, but not him mercilessly kill people later. Stay for the whole show, people!

This part of the movie is very odd and occasionally feels like padding. For example, the girl gets depressed about her condition and jumps into a river...only to be found within three minutes by the guy. This does serve, however, to introduce us to a helpful bum named The River Man. He hides them in the sewer with him, although both the military and the angry Mexicans find them in time. After cutting herself to put off eating her boyfriend, the girl goes a little nuts and turns himself into a giant, angry pin-cushion. Of course, after this, she continues to eat people. Huh? She makes a feast out of the Mexicans, even turning the lead one into that long-necked zombie who would show up later in Land of the Dead. She even bites into River Man, showing that she can't respect someone doing her a favor. At the last minute, the military shows up and saves our hero. The End. No, we get a second ending sequence involving a look at the military's plans for the zombies. They plan to put them in controllable exo-skeletons and send them into battle. Our hero freaks out and breaks the zombies free. Good in theory, but he does get a lot of nameless grunts killed too. The evil scientists- including Douglas- die, but our hero is bitten by his lady pal and decides that they should commit suicide in the manner of Ripley from Aliens 3. Hurray for this...incredibly-depressing ending. The End.

I like the movie, but it definitely has some issues. I like the idea of zombies being viewed as bio-weapons and I think that more films should explore this. I like the use of less zombies as well, making their appearances more dramatic. Honestly, I just did not buy into the story of the 'true love gone bad' with our two heroes. Maybe it's because I have never been so in love with someone that I would do crazy shit. It could be that this is a theme that resonates more with those kinds of people, in the same way that horror films about brothers resonate with people that have them (like myself). In all honesty, I wish the film had avoided some of the crazier shit, as it clashed with the dark and serious tone of the film. The lady's transformation into the spike-covered zombie is interesting, but feels a bit out of place here. I know that the series is known for its crazy zombies- I just have an issue with this one. The film has some great 80s-style gore though, which I'm always a fan of. The movie just has an identity crisis to me. They wanted to put a more serious tone into the film- that's fine- but could not commit to leaving out the weird zombies. It is definitely worth a look, especially if you like a change of pace.

Next up, a mutant cat runs loose. Finally, a horror film that I can relate to. Stay tuned...


  1. There are aspects I love about this one and ones I hate, but I agree that none of the films in the series hit the right note in the bioweapons theme. 4 tried it as well, but utterly failed. Id totally pee in that chicks butt though, zombie or not (preferably zombie)

  2. I liked this one better than the 2nd one.

  3. I still don't quite get all the hate for 'Part 2.' As I stated, however, I watched it before seeing the original film, so I wasn't offended by the 'parody' nature of it.

    As I wrote, I have some issues overall with the tone. It's the closest one to a serious film in the series, but still throws in the silly stuff. It's close, but not quite there.

  4. I really loved the first film- the second is basically a rehash, with a bunch of slapstick thrown in. I'm not a big fan of the comedy in it.