#244 -- Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)
Director: Brian Yuzna
Back in 1985, a revolutionary film in the zombie subgenre was created. That film was Return of the Living Dead. In it, we saw zombies as we'd never seen them before, and we absolutely loved it. It was an absolutely fantastic movie that spawned four sequels and gained a healthy cult following. Three years later, the first sequel was released, and it was several degrees lower than the first in terms of greatness. It just didn't live up to its predecessor's name. But in 1993, director Brian Yuzna stepped it back up, and brought us this delightfully horrifying entry to the series.
It is the story of Curt and Julie, a lovely young punk rock couple that follows no one's rules but their own. Curt's father is employed by a government facility working on creating some new military weapons. I probably don't have to tell you what those weapons are. But just in case you don't know...With the help of some handy Trioxin, they're creating superhuman weapons out of corpses. We've heard this idea many times over, but this time we actually get to see it in detail. In the beginning, they zombies are actually fairly well contained, as Curt and Julie witness them when they break into the lab. But everything goes sour eventually, as is always the case. When Curt's father tells him they will have to move, for his job, Curt and Julie will have none of it. They decide to run away together, so they won't have to be separated. They're planning on moving to Seattle, so Curt can join a band (though obviously he doesn't know the first thing about being a musician), and Julie can settle into a life of nothing but partying. On the way, though, Curt's motorcycle crashes, leaving Julie dead, dead, dead. Fortunately, Curt remembers what he saw in Daddy's lab, and takes Julie back over there to expose her to some Trioxin. All seems well and good for a minute; Julie's back, they're happy, they 're running away together. But zombies will be zombies, and Julie is no exception. Once the craving for brains sets in, she starts freaking out. She doesn't understand what's happening, or why Curt would do such a thing. Since she and Curt have such a strong bond, she will not attack him. He is safe, for the time being. Everyone else, though, had better move the fuck out of her way. So now Curt and Julie have to run away for real; they're trying to evade his father, the police, and a group of Mexican thugs they got into a tussle with at a gas station. They wander through the mean streets and sewers of...well, wherever it is they are, meet a homeless sewer dweller they call River Man, and Julie seriously fucks some shit up.
Part three of the series differed from the first in terms of zombie motivation. You could call it failed continuity, and you might be right, but you can't really be mad about it. In the first, the motivation for eating brains was to assuage the pain of being dead. If you dig down deep, you can actually see where this movie just expanded on that idea and gave it new meaning. In the original, the only thing that can stop the pain is the hunger. In this one, the only thing to stop hunger is pain. Julie realizes that, when she's hurt, she's not hungry. So, to keep from eating everyone in sight, she causes herself some serious pain. She impales herself with rusty springs, needles, shards of glass, chains threaded through her neck meat, and all sorts of other goodies. She becomes 100% bad-ass, and she's definitely one of my favorite horror characters EVER. Not only that, but she's one of my favorite zombies too. Actually, I think all of my favorite zombies come from ROTLD movies...Not only is she one bad-ass lady, but (maybe I'm a freak...) she's sexy as hell. She was beautiful in the first place, but once she got all tricked out with her piercings and mutilations...she was one hot tamale.
I've also got to mention the ending of the movie. I'm not going to give it away, in case some of you out there haven't seen it. But it's kind of a "Bride of Frankenstein" ordeal. It's very sad, and it still brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. But it works.
So, Return of the Living Dead revolutionized the zombie characters. But part three expanded on those ideas and created a zombie unlike any other, even within the series. It is one of the great zombie masterpieces of our generation, and it will remain in my hall of fame until the end of time. Or until the zombies destroy the world.