The late, great George A. Romero gave birth to the modern zombie genre with his seminal The Night of The Living Dead.
From Romero’s own sequels, to remakes of varying quality, via comedies such as Shaun of The Dead and Braindead, and hit comic book and TV show The Walking Dead, the original film continues to influence new generations.
1985’s Return of The Living Dead, a semi-official spin-off created by ‘Night’ co-writer John Russo, and directed by Alien creator Dan O’Bannon, was a critical hit, and managed to combine the chills of the original movie with some very impressive – and gooey – special effects, along with a liberal dose of humour, all to great effect.
A forgettable sequel soon followed of course, and it wasn’t until 1993 that we got a worthy follow-up.
Return of The Living Dead 3 introduces us to young couple Curt and Julie, who break into the military base where his father works, and witness a top-secret experiment aimed at resurrecting zombies and turning them into bio-weapons. Because what could go wrong with that, right?
Soon after, a motorcycle crash leaves Julie dead, and a desperate Curt returns to the base to re-create the earlier experiment to bring her back to life. No prizes for guessing how that turns out. The couple are soon on the run, but it quickly becomes clear that, rather than needing Curt’s protection, Julie is more than capable of fending for herself, especially at meal times…
It had been a many, many years since I’d last seen this film, and I’m happy to say it’s stood the test of time very well.
It’s bonkers, of course, and never takes itself too seriously, but strikes just the right balance of horror and humour.
This is thanks in no small part to director Brian Yuzna, a familiar name to horror fans. As a producer, writer and director, Yuzna has played a part in bringing us a host of classic horror and genre movies, including the Re-Animator series, Warlock, Society, From Beyond and more, and his understanding of what makes a great horror flick is clearly on display here.
He’s helped in his endeavours by a great cast, with some familiar faces – especially Sarah Douglas, aka Ursa from the first two Superman movies. Director Anthony Hickox (Hellraiser III, Waxwork) also gets a fun, and grisly, cameo.
The standout though is Melinda Clarke as Julie. This was one of Clarke’s first films, but you’d never guess it as she throws herself into the role with great confidence. As Julie’s condition worsens, the role becomes more physically demanding – eventually the prosthetics involved the application of over 100 separate pieces – but Clarke is a real trooper throughout.
While the pace flags a little in the middle of the movie, it’s not long before we’re heading for the blood-soaked finale.
Just the right side of cheesy, the film defies its limited resources with a decent story, playful tone and engaging performances.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Living Dead movie without copious goo, gore, and body parts, and you won’t be disappointed. Fortunately, the film was made before CGI began its takeover, so we get some great looking physical effects here. While the low budget shows at times, it’s clear that a lot of time, love, and effort went into the prosthetics and animatronics, and we’re treated to some first class, old-school, over the top carnage.
Return of The Living Dead 3 is GREAT zombie film, that all fans of the genre should check out.
Video and Audio
Lionsgate/Vestron’s new release presents the fully uncut version of the film in a newly restored transfer.
The video presentation is very good indeed, considering the film’s age and budget. There’s obviously no way this is ever going to look as pristine and pin sharp as a more recent movie, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
The transfer appears to be clear from any damage, with a bold colour palette and decent contrast levels with strong blacks. While the image is a little soft overall, it’s clean, and with plenty of detail. There’s a very natural, film-like look to the picture, and, taken on its own terms, it’s very impressive.
The audio is a decent stereo DTS-HD MA track. There’s nothing here that’s home cinema demo material, but it gets the job done. Dialog is nice and clear, while the sound effects and score make full use of the available soundstage.
Return of The Living Dead 3 arrives on Blu-ray with a great selection of extra features, running over 4.5 hours in total.
First are two commentary tracks – one with Brian Yuzna, and the other with Melinda Clarke and visual effects supervisor Tom Rainone – both carried over from the old US DVD. Both tracks are very informative, covering all aspects of the production, and packed with facts and anecdotes – well worth a listen.
Next are a bunch of newly produced featurettes.
‘Ashes to Ashes’ runs approx. 27 minutes, and features director Brian Yuzna and co-writer John Penney talking about the development and product of the film.
‘Living Dead Girl’ is next, and is an interview with Melinda Clarke running approx. 20 minutes, where she talks about her work on the film.
‘Romeo is Bleeding’ (approx. 17 minutes) sees J. Trevor Edmond – who played the role of Curt – discuss how he got the role, and his approach to the character.
‘Trimark & Trioxin’ is an approx. 13 minute look at how the indie studio – famous for their mainly genre releases – got the rights to the Living Dead franchise, and went about getting the movie made. Trimark ceased to exist after a merger with Lionsgate in 2000, but a look back at their releases before then shows an impressive catalog, and perhaps a few clues as to what other releases Vestron might have lined up for us.
‘The Resurrected Dead’ – runs approx. 19 minutes, and takes a look at the special effects of the film,.
There’s naturally a bit of cross-over here with all of these pieces, but each offers up plenty of information and different perspectives, and they’re all well worth a watch.
The extras are rounded out with storyboard and stills galleries, and a pair of trailers.
This release comes in standard Amaray packaging. We’re not aware of any plans from Vestron to release steelbooks, but, as parent company Lionsgate have released quite a few, we’d hope it’s something we’ll see before too long.
If you haven’t seen Return of The Living Dead 3 before, then do yourself a favour and pick up this release. There are no story points or characters to connect it to the previous movies, and it’s essentially a stand-alone film.
If you HAVE seen the film before then I can assure you that you haven’t seen it look this good.
As one of Vestron’s first batch of releases, this movie gets the label off to a great start, and I can’t wait to see what they’ve got lined up for us.