29 June 2016

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III/1993/BRIAN YUZNA

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III/1993
DIRECTOR: Brian Yuzna
WRITER: John Penny
CAST: Kent McCord, Melinda Clarke, J. Trevor Edmund, James T. Callahan, Sarah Douglas

There was a time I was a real zombie movie fan but that fascination has longed waned in the face of the utter drek that is churned out in the name of the flesh eating living dead. I tend to like the bigger budget stuff now and the couple TV shows, The Walking Dead and fear the Walking Dead. The last real zombie movie I got into before my but out began was The Return of the Living Dead III, directed by Brian Yuzna way back in 1993. It and the original 1988 ROTLD are the only two of the series I have ever cared for and I do not think I have even bothered with most of the newer ones. I got depressed seeing Peter Coyote (this guy worked with Spielberg and Polanski for the love of God) degrade himself to pay the rent in the later sequels. The second one was just not entertaining while the original is the classic horror/comedy film it has earned the reputation of being. But the third film seems to have slipped off the radar for most people and that si too bad. It is a well made little film by the often capable Yuzna from back when he was still producing and directing films in America (for all I know he is still making movies in Spain or some place). 

The basic storyline diverges from most zombies films in that it 1) does not focus on some sort of zombie holocaust and a few humans battling hysterically against the apocalypse and each other and 2) it weaves a pretty believable love story, of a Romeo and Juliet variety, into the plot. Young teenager Curt Reynolds (James T. Callahan) and his military father Col. Reynolds (Adam 12’s Kent McCord in a good performance) are struggling with father/son issues and the stress of moving from base to base where the Col. is overseeing the latest experiments with trioxin, the chemical in that reanimates the dead and brings them back as brain hungry zombies. The film makes a departure from the first tow in this department in that bites can now transform people, whereas in the first films only exposure to the trioxin gas made you a zombie. 

Curt is in love with Julie (Melinda Clarke) and after a motorcycle accident kills her he revives her with the trioxin gas, out of love of course, but things start to get a little freaky for Curt and Julie after she starts getting hungry. Snowballs and Twinkies at the local convenient store aren’t going to satisfy her. The film become a series of chases from local pachuko gang members and the military that leads the pair into the infamous underground sewers of LA. If you Google the film and look at the images it is hard to find anything other than the now iconic images of Julie with all manner of pins, and scrap metal and chains and broken glass impaled through her body. The make up for those scenes took no less than six hours to do. The images are impressive and Julie ranks as the sexiest zombie girl in horror history I suppose. If there were a contest for the one zombie chick you’d want to do if you had the chance I would bet Julie would win.

When Yuzna wants to dish out the graphic violence he can and he does in ROTLD III. There aren’t many scenes here of attacking zombies being shot in the heads and most all of the violence has humans on the receiving end. I am sure zombie rights activists will be happy to hear that. The acting and story of star-crossed lovers Curt and Julie keep the narrative moving along, as well as the father and son dysfunction subplot, and even the rivalry between Col. Reynolds and Col. Sinclair (Sarah Douglas) for the best use of the trioxin animated zombies. Sinclair’s zombie driven exoskeleton innovation adds for some freakish effects towards the end of the film. 

I can honestly say this film is one of my guilty pleasures in life and I have seen it a half dozen or more times since I first saw it on VHS. It stands on its own in the series and while a part of the ROTLD franchise it cold have almost been a movie all on its own. In fact I understand Yuzna was not completely happy to have to use the ROTLD title as the film was getting completed. It felt it was too long and felt the film was a bit distinct from the first two films.  But he had in fact agreed to do a sequel in the beginning and so that was that. It is still way beyond all the low budget zombie shit that is being churned out these days in terms of story and atmosphere. If more zombie films had taken this direction I would still be an avid fan of the genre. 


















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