Return Of The Living Dead Part 3, written by John Penny and directed by Brian Yuzna (he of Faust, Society and Bride Of Re-Animator fame) in 1993, is a genuinely interesting and unique sequel and one of the best zombie movies of the nineties.
Curt Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmond) and Julie (Melinda Clarke) are young lovebirds with a sense of adventure. For kicks one night, they sneak into the military compound where Curt's dad, Colonel John Reynolds (Kent McCord), heads up some top secret research. After poking around a bit, they witness some scientists attempting to reanimate a corpse. It doesn't go the way that the scientists had hoped, and before you know it, the Colonel's job is in jeopardy.
When the Colonel tells Curt that they're moving, he doesn't take the news well. He gets angry and storms out, taking off for a ride on his motorcycle with Julie tagging along. Unfortunately, they get into an accident and Julie winds up dead. Devastated by this, Curt sneaks her body back to the military compound and uses the chemicals he saw the scientists working with to bring her back to life. It works, but Julie isn't quite the same afterwards. As you'd expect, given the film's title, she is now a flesh eating zombie and is in constant pain when she's not able to get the sustenance she needs. She tries to distract herself with self-mutilation and body modifications in an attempt to put off the inevitable change she knows is coming…
It's kind of like Romeo & Juliette, except that Juliette is a zombie. Surprisingly enough, it works really well. This one takes place in the same universe as the first two movies but it definitely pushes the story into a completely different direction. At its core, Return Of The Living Dead Part 3 is absolutely a love story. Curt's intentions are completely noble when he brings Julie (the name is not a coincidence, is it?) back. He doesn't have much else to latch onto in life, she is his everything and while it might be selfish in a way, he does what he does out of love. Of course, it backfires and his position on all of this starts to evolve once he realizes she needs to eat people to survive and that she's ‘living' in constant pain. But he meant well.
Our two leads handle all of this quite well. Kent McCord overdoes it a little bit here and there but we're dealing with young love, and by its very nature young love tends to be overdone. In the context of the story being told his performance is just fine. Melinda Clarke steals the show, however. Not only is she gorgeous, but she plays the tortured soul character really well. When she's all decked out in her zombie makeup with her piercings and body modifications in full swing, she cuts quite a memorable figure, but her acting is totally in line with where you'd guess someone in her situation might be.
The movie is paced well. It sets itself up early enough that things happen quickly, but we get just enough character development for the two leads that they work. The film is also spectacularly gory. It's definitely worth noting that the version of the movie included on this disc is indeed the unrated version of the film. The previous DVD release was the R-rated version so in this extra gooey-gory cut we get some considerably stronger carnage and the movie is all the better for it. The special effects employed for the zombie attacks and feastings do not hold back. They're very effective and at times surprisingly convincing. The film was made on a modest budget to be sure and there are times where that shows in terms of scale and in scope, but when it comes to the gore, Yuzna and company put their back into it. The end result is an atypical zombie movie to be sure, but that there is where so much of Return Of The Living Dead Part 3's appeal lies. This isn't a cookie-cutter rehash or a formulaic cash-in on the franchise name. It's a surprisingly unique, original and effective take on what a zombie movie can be when handled by a writing and directing team who are clearly inspired to push things into new and interesting territory.The Blu-ray
Return Of The Living Dead Part 3 is presented on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85.1 widescreen. The movie was previously released by Tri-Mark on DVD years ago but this is, as it should be, a pretty massive step up from the picture quality on that disc. Detail is improved over the old DVD release, you really notice this in the background details scattered throughout the movie in the costumes and sets/locations used in the picture, though it is a bit soft. Colors look much more natural here (the reds in the gore scenes pop a lot but don't look boosted or artificial!), skin tones as well, and we get a nice uptick in depth and texture. Black levels are solid and contrast looks just fine. All in all, this is pretty good looking and a nice upgrade over what we've had in the past.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Again, this is a big upgrade over past editions, which sounded flat and fairly weak. Dialogue is much cleaner and clearer than before and the multiple gun shots and sound effects featured in the film have a lot more punch now, which makes those scenes a bit more effective. At the same time, the levels stay balanced so that the effects don't bury the performers. The film's score has good bounce to it but never overpowers the dialogue and the track is free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH only.Extras:
There are two audio commentary on this disc carried over from the Tri-Mark DVD that came out way back in 2001, the first of which is with director Brian Yuzna. He speaks pretty candidly about working on this film, talking about how he came onboard to direct the picture, how he fills it fits alongside the first two movies in the series, the performances featured in the picture, some of the effects work that was created for the film and quite a bit more. The second track features actress Melinda Clarke and special makeup effects artist Tom Rainone. These two get into the nitty-gritty of the effects work, particularly as it applies to Clarke's character and all that she had to go through to be turned into the zombie she becomes in the latter part of the movie. Both of these tracks are pretty interesting and if you haven't heard them before, worth checking out.
From there we move on to a pretty extensive selection of newly created featurettes beginning with Ashes To Ashes which is a conversation with Yuzna and screenwriter John Penney that runs twenty-seven minutes. Here we learn about how this film came to be, some of the issues involved in getting the rights sorted out to the franchise, how they only requirements Yuzna was given were ‘you have to have the Trioxin and you have to have brain eating.' Penney talks about writing the film with Yuzna, how they worked in the piercing and fetish aspects into the movie, how they turned the treatment into the finished script, working with the cast and crew on the film, shooting the film in Valencia, how a certain actor in the film was ‘on meds' and how they were worried he would wander away and not come back and quite a bit more. In Living Dead Girl we get Melinda Clarke in front of the camera to talk about her experiences on the film for nineteen minutes. She talks about getting into acting after finishing one year of college, landing a role on Days Of Our Lives, and how this particular film was only her second feature. She describes her performance as ‘brave and inexperienced,' how her agent got her the audition, almost falling asleep driving home after working twenty-four hours straight, and how she brought all of her own jewelry to the set. She also talks about having to get into character once Julie changes, her thoughts on working with J. Trevor Edmund, how the film wound up being censored, being ‘terrified' on set by some of the zombies, and having to undergo some serious makeup work for the part. Romeo Is Bleeding gets actor J. Trevor Edmond to share some stories about his work on the film. Over seventeen minutes he talks about how he got into acting, how this was his first starring role, the film's similarities to Romeo & Juliette, how his connection with Melinda Clark helped him secure the part and how they got along really well on set. He then goes on to talk about the fast shooting schedule, the difficulties that a single hair can cause on a shoot, the trials and tribulations of being made to cry on set and the serious work ethic of everyone involved in making the movie. Trimark & Trioxin interviews production executive David Tripet and editor Chris Roth about assembling the film. This piece runs thirteen minutes and here Tripet discusses his role in getting the movie made while he and Roth both talk up working with director Yuzna on the film. Tripet also talks about how the video stores of the day were in a constant need for product and how Trimark filled that need with a series of modestly budgeted pictures. They also talk about certain locations used in the movie, the love story angle of the film, and a fair bit more. The Resurrected Dead is an interesting nineteen minute long piece with special effects designers Steve Johnson and Chris Nelson. Not surprisingly, they talk about what went into putting the film's effects set pieces together but they also talk about their beginnings in the effects industry, their experiences working on a few projects before they took on this picture, how the producers at the time didn't want to put all of their eggs in one basket in terms of contracting the effects work, the advantages of working with an actor who has no teeth, how they tried to make things as real as they could in the context of the story and how certain effects set pieces were accomplished. Each of these featurettes features clips from the film and quite a few of them also feature some great behind the scenes material.
Outside of that we get a substantial still gallery, a storyboard gallery, the film's original trailer, animated menus and chapter selection. The Blu-ray keepcase fits inside a slick foil-embossed cardboard slipcover.Final Thoughts:
Return Of The Living Dead Part 3 was long overdue for a proper special edition release and thankfully, this Blu-ray is it. The film looks and sounds great, it is presented in its proper uncut form and it not only carries over the two commentary tracks from the old DVD but it adds a whole bunch of interesting featurettes to the package as well. It took a while to get here, but better late than never. Highly recommended!