Return of the Living Dead III is a rare case when the second sequel is actually one of the best of the franchise. Like the Elm Street series, ROTLD also has a terrible first sequel which is being redeemed by the third in the series. The main reason is because of a fresh approach to the material. Instead of rehashing the first movie like the second did, this third installment focusses on an attractive young female Julie (Melinda Clarke) who dies in a motorcycle accident and is then revived by her boyfriend Curt (J. Trevor Edmond), son of Colonel John Reynolds, with the same gas that brought back all the corpses in the first two movies.
At the core of this horror movie is something you don’t see everyday: a love story. Curt and Julie are deeply in love with each other, but his father disapproves so they run away together. Julie, a bit of a thrill seeker, causes the motorcycle they’re both on to crash launching her straight in to a tree. Since they snuck in the military facility his father is working on they’re aware of a gas that can bring dead people back to life. So he rushes her back to the facility and brings her back to life, but Julie isn’t quite the same, she now starts to have a craving for human brains.
Return of the Living Dead III takes a radical different approach to the series. The humor is gone and we’re presented with a more serious installment which works for most of the time. The majority of the movie revolves around Julie and Curt trying to escape the army which is aware of her status while also having a Latin gang pursuing them. They end up in a sewer system where they also encounter a guy named River man (Basil Wallace). Eventually, and I’m not spoiling anything here since she’s on every piece of advertising, Julie becomes a fully pierced zombie.
Her zombie version is probably the most notorious thing about this movie. She pierces herself quite abnormally since pain takes her mind of her desire for human brains. This results her into something that somewhat resembles the Cenobites from the Hellraiser series, with her walking around in hotpants, black leather, her breasts exposed, and sharp objects pierced through all of her body parts. Remember, this was when the only regular mainstream piercings were earrings.
This is a good installment, especially after the tedious second movie. The pacing is good and Julie is smoking hot… even with the piercings. Not that I’m into that kind of thing but hey, the girl has a nice rack which just so happens to be on display all the time after the transformation. There are some nice ideas giving us original zombies and the gore is suitable for this type of movie, though at some moments obviously fake.
On the other hand it’s also obvious that the budget of this movie wasn’t that high. The military base is clearly some warehouse and having the finale take place in a confined area like a sewer is not only unoriginal (Friday The 13th Part VIII did the same, as countless other horror movies) but also probably a choice made by budget constraints.
These are just small remarks about a movie that successfully revived (pun intended) this series.