RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III
The only point in common between all of the Return of the Living Dead films is the use of the military gas. Unlike its two predecessors, Return of the Living Dead III is not even a comedy. Unlike Return of the Living Dead Part II, it at least takes the basic concept into intriguing new territories. Now the zombie outbreak and apocalypse plot has been replaced by a tragic love story. At the centre of the film is Mindy (aka Melinda) Clarke, an actress of occasional genre associations in films such as Killer Tongue (1996), Spawn (1997) and a good deal of genre tv, although best known in recent years for a regular role in The O.C. (2003-7). With unnaturally pale skin, wide forehead and dyed red hair, Mindy Clarke seems weird and unearthly even before she becomes a zombie. The main thrust of the story focuses around her learning that she is a zombie and the struggle not to eat boyfriend J. Trevor Edmonds brains. The film never quite succeeds at what it sets out to do but its personal angle is an original and refreshing one after a plethora of bad zombie films that clogged up cinema screens in the 1980s and 00s.
Return of the Living Dead III was the fourth film directed by Brian Yuzna. Yuzna had previously worked as producer for Stuart Gordon on Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) and Dolls (1987) and made his debut as a director with Society (1989), before going onto direct the likes of Bride of Re-Animator (1990), Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: The Initiation (1990), Necronomicon (1993), The Dentist (1996), The Dentist 2 (1998), Progeny (1998), Faust: Love of the Damned (2000), Beyond Re-Animator (2003), Rottweiler (2004), Beneath Still Waters (2005) and Amphibious 3-D (2010). Yuzna has also produced a number of genre films including Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), Infested (1993), Crying Freeman (1995), Arachnid (2001), Dagon (2001), Darkness (2002), Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (2004), The Nun (2005) and Takut: The Faces of Fear (2008).
One of the elements of Brian Yuznas films at least his earlier work in the 1990s, before he moved base to Spain was a fascination with perverse imagery. The parts of his films that one remembers are incredibly outre images like the climactic shape-shifting orgy in Society or the various sadistic misuses made of dental instruments in the Dentist films. Yuzna appears to enjoy these startling images, although the criticism that might be made is that some of his films, like Society and Bride of Re-Animator, are only hung around a single perverse climactic scene. Much of Return of the Living Dead III seems to have been conceived around the striking image of the undead Mindy Clarke unveiled as a human porcupine with needles inserted all over her body and spikes through her nipples, supposedly on the theory that the pain takes away the hunger for human brains.
In regard to the more established aspects of the zombie film, Return of the Living Dead III is somewhat lacking. Despite work from some five credited companies, the zombie makeups are so-so. (Bruan Yuzna appears to have been working on a limited budget). Yuzna also fails to build the climax up into anything that approaches the siege intensity of Night of the Living Dead or even the first Return of the Living Dead.