Return of the Living Dead 3

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Return of the Living Dead 3
Film poster
Directed by Brian Yuzna
Produced by Lawrence Steven Meyers
Brian Yuzna
Gary Schmoeller
John Penney
Written by John Penney
Music by Barry Goldberg
Cinematography Gerry Lively
Edited by Christopher Roth
Distributed by Trimark Pictures
Release date
  • October 29, 1993 (1993-10-29)
Running time
97 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,000,000 (estimated)
Box office $54,207 (USA)

Return of the Living Dead 3 is a 1993 American romantic horror film.[1] The film is the second sequel in the Return of the Living Dead film series but bears little resemblance to its predecessors, as it drops the comedy of those films and replaces it with a larger focus on horror, science fiction, and romantic themes. The Trioxin substance from previous films also carry over, but with different effects from previous films in the series. Like the zombies in previous films of the series, these tend to run rather than walk or limp and are fixated on eating brains. These zombies seem to infect their victims by biting them whereas, in the two previous films, only exposure to Trioxin (in either its natural gas state or in water that had been exposed to Trioxin) could turn a corpse into a zombie.


On December 9, 1993, when Curt Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmond) steals his father's security key card, he and his girlfriend, Julie Walker (Melinda Clarke), decide to explore the military base where his father works. Using the card, they sneak into a hangar and observe Curt's father, Col. John Reynolds (Kent McCord), Col. Peck (James T. Callahan) and Lt. Col. Sinclair (Sarah Douglas) overseeing an experiment with a corpse.

The corpse is exposed to 2-4-5 Trioxin gas, which re-animates the corpse into a zombie. The military hopes to use the zombies in combat as nigh-unstoppable soldiers. However, the zombies are impossible to control as they have a terrible hunger for human brains that causes them to constantly attack.

To deal with the zombies' vicious nature, Sinclair has a plan to permanently attach the zombies to exoskeletons that will also immobilize them when they are not in battle. Reynolds prefers to use a method referred to as "paretic infusion" to paralyze the zombie until it is needed. This is accomplished by firing a chemical projectile into the forehead of the zombie that causes an endothermic reaction that freezes the zombie's brain and temporarily immobilizes it.

When the paretic infusion method is tested on the zombie in the lab, it is successful for only a few moments before the effect wears off much faster than was expected; the zombie breaks free and attacks a scientist by biting his fingers off and then bashing his head against a wall until he is killed. Infected by the zombie's bite, the scientist almost immediately re-animates and attacks one of the other technicians. The initial zombie and the reanimated scientist are then paralyzed with bullets and the survivors in the room are quarantined. Reynolds is removed from the project for his failure and is reassigned to Oklahoma City, while Sinclair is promoted to head of the project.

Some time later, Col. Reynolds informs Curt that they'll be moving again (something they've done a dozen times in Curt's life already) and Curt refuses. Angrily, he storms out of home, riding off on his motorcycle with Julie. While they are speeding down the road, Julie playfully grabs Curt's crotch, causing him to lose control of the motorcycle. He veers into the path of an oncoming truck, swerves and slams into the guard rail. Julie is thrown from the bike and into a telephone pole; the impact breaks her neck and kills her.

Distraught, Curt brings Julie's corpse back to the military base. Using his father's key card, he accesses the Trioxin gas to reanimate her. This leads to Julie & Curt dealing with the effects of Julie being dead - not feeling pain and having no desire to eat normal food - and what they are to do about her condition.

After leaving the base Julie gets very hungry and Curt stops by a store. A gang of four Mexicans talk about her, Curt gets angry and hits one of them by mistake. The shopkeeper has a gun; when things go bad one of the gang fights over the gun, shooting the shopkeeper. Julie then bites the man who shot him. The alarm goes off and the gang runs off, shooting Curt's bike before leaving. While Curt and Julie are in the van, the wounded shopkeeper asks for help. As Curt drives the van, Julie is overcome by her hunger for brains and attacks the shopkeeper, eating some of his brains before Curt stops her.

The gang chases Julie and Curt through the city, not realizing what is happening to their infected friend. Julie and Curt decide to hide from the gang in the sewers, where they encounter Riverman, a vagrant who takes them in and hides them. He gives Curt a coin, and tells him "if you meet someone, do them some good, then tell them to pass it on."

Julie discovers that extreme pain seems to temporarily make the cravings to feed on humans go away. She pierces and mutilates her flesh with various items of junk found around Riverman's lair, until she is adorned with spikes, nails, and shards of glass sticking out of her flesh, giving her an extremely unsettling appearance.

The gang eventually tracks Julie and Curt down. Julie seduces the gang leader and attacks and kills him and then uses her new decorations to stab, beat, and otherwise kill the rest of the gang. Julie's body starts to become accustomed to the pain over time, and she turns on Riverman, infecting and killing him. Things seem hopeless for Curt, with Julie's current state and the re-animation of the gang, when the military arrive and neutralizes all of the zombies (including Julie).

When all of the zombies are captured, Curt realizes Julie is going to be used as a weapon and goes into a rage, freeing the zombies which then kill the soldiers. In the commotion the base is set on fire and Curt is bitten by a zombie. Curt's father tries to get Curt to leave but he realizes that by doing this he would be abandoning Julie, and he knows that he is infected. So, Curt and Julie go to the furnace to die together. Julie asks where they are, Curt says "where we belong" they kiss one last time and then burn.



Critical reception of the film is mixed with the film receiving a score of 44% based on 9 reviews tallied on the review aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes.[2] Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+ and said "it's chock-full of brain-munching zombies, campy dialogue, and gross anatomical effects-but it's that touch of amore that makes this one so special." Allmovie wrote, "Although it features the same vaguely punk-derived fashion sense and many of the same plot elements as its predecessors, the third effort in the Return of the Living Dead series lacks much of the goofy entertainment value of the previous installments."[3] Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For author Arnold T. Blumberg wrote that "Clarke tries to make the most of her after-death angst," but that the film was "little more than a twisted catalogue of fetishistic imagery for horror movie aficionados keen to have a female zombie they can actually find attractive."[4]

Production notes[edit]

The following production notes were noted in the October 1993 issue of Fangoria magazine (#127):

  • The film had a 24-day shooting schedule using two camera crews (one for principal photography, one for extensive 2nd-unit FX) at Santa Clarita Studios in Los Angeles, with Melrose Place filming next door.
  • Director/producer Brian Yuzna was disappointed with the lack of screen time for his previous female monster creation in Bride of Re-Animator and wanted "Julie" to have a far bigger presence.
  • Yuzna had been aiming to do a ROTLD sequel for years and was Trimark's first choice to direct.
  • Brian Peck ("Scuzz" in ROTLD and various zombies in ROTLD II) returns to play a government agent in this film. He is the only actor to appear in all three films.
  • Julie's full zombie look required 100 different pieces, an application process that originally took 9 hours but was eventually cut down to 6, not including glamour make-up.
  • Five different FX companies (including Steve Johnson's XFX) were used during the shoot due to the tight schedule and number of effects in the film.
  • Hellraiser III and Waxwork director Anthony Hickox plays one of the government scientists who is killed early in the film by a test zombie.
  • The welded-metal exoskeleton worn by Riverman weighed 75 pounds and was designed by Tim Ralston.
  • The film was released Unrated on VHS in addition to the R-Rated theater cut. Yuzna trimmed "between 50 and 60" moments to get the R Rating.


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