Boy, how things have really changed over the last 12 or so years in cinema. And I’m talking about particularly the zombie genre. Its hard to imagine a time when there weren’t an absurd amount of zombie films being released every year. From the late 80s until Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later in 2002, finding a new modern zombie film was scarce. And as far as I can remember, 1993’s Return of the Living Dead 3 felt like the last one. And it may have been the last really commercial or one to play theatrically in some form. I didn’t see it until home video, but for me, it was a big deal and an event. A brand new zombie film! It wasn’t just some run of the mill one either. This film wound up being a unique, strange, endaring oddity that hasn’t left my conscience every since the first time I saw it. Brian Yuzna’s film managed to have memorable characters, iconic looks, unforgettable horrific images and gore that sticks with you. And now, you can have all of that, finally in uncut form when it makes its US Blu-ray debut from Vestron Video on November 22nd!
In Return of the Living Dead: Part II, the chemical Trioxin turned people into flesh-eating zombies. Now, the government is trying to control these unstoppable cannibalistic killers in Return of the Living Dead 3. When a young man uses the chemical to bring his girlfriend back to life after a motorcycle accident, she is driven to eat the only thing that will nourish her…human brains! She tries to stop her own feeding frenzy but a chain reaction has already begun, as hordes of undead are unleashed from their graves!
Call it nostalgia, call me weird, call me whatever, but I have a pretty big love and giant soft spot for this movie. I probably scored it a hair higher than I really mean too. As a big fan of the zombie genre, this one is just such a unique piece of the canon that really stands out as its own thing. We really haven’t anything like this before or since. You could argue that Life After Beth goes for the same thing, but man, that is a kid’s toy compared to what Brian Yuzna’s film brings to the table.
Like most zombie films, you want to rate things on a gross-meter. And this one is definitely one of the tops. They had many of the best (Steve Johnson included) working on Return of the Living Dead 3. Mostly, the effects in this movie hold up. And the ones whose strings kinda show (Literally on one), you still can enjoy and find an appreciation of seeing the craft at work. This is mainly because the film is super ambitious and you just applaud them “going for it” and the creative dismemberment on display.
Our core here is a zombie love story. And I think it may be the first one. I mean, REALLY a love story. Not just guy’s girlfriend gets bit and he’s sad for 2 seconds when we see her as a zombie and her brain gets blown out the back of her head shortly after. No, this is a guy and a girl holding on as she slowly becomes the undead and even after. Melinda Clarke CRUSHES it in this role. She’s iconic not just for her look, but selling a completely confused, haunted and tortured soul. The romance here is just downright tragic and manages to work. And you really feel for Curt Reynolds, a military brat who is informed at the beginning that he’ll be moving away after just having moved like 6 months ago. You really get the sense that while he’s got a great girlfriend, maybe its the fact that he just wants to hold on to something and not lose it. This romance and the characters are working on a number of levels for a film that doesn’t deserve this kind of depth. No, this isn’t some big drama, its still very B-level horror and weird an goofy, but this kind of layering is still there.
When I saw this movie, it really did a number on me. I’ve always remembered it to this day. Being 12 and seeing all this goth, BDSM stuff, gangsters and just grossness of the zombies and people (Like the pimp and his gang that show up later) threw me for a loop. Another thing that got me was all the zombie experimentation for potential weaponizing. One of the most haunting things for me ever in a horror film is when Curt finds Riverman at the military facility. He’s zombified, almost naked, and in this mechanical headgear-body suit thing. Its just a weird sight and his performance is kind of big. But, thing that creeps out and deeply saddens is watching him actually entertain thought and memory. I can’t tell you why, but that moment has always really affected me for some reason.
For some of you who haven’t seen this movie, maybe I’m overselling. But this is what this movie has always been to me. And being able to see it when it came out, it was but one of a couple zombie films for its time and decade and in the whole gamut up until 1993, one of A) not that many and B) of complete American origin. Now, there are so many, this one could just be run of the mill for a young film fan looking back. I want to think its unique enough to stick out, but I’m not of today’s youth and don’t know how it would be among the now, massive pack of zombie films we have. It was great to once again revisit the film, and to finally see it uncut and not from watching a bootleg VHS tape!
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Clarity/Detail: I’m going to be honest, this transfer of Return of the Living Dead 3 is both pretty terrific and slightly underwhelming at the same time. The film looks better than it ever has. Detail is quite graphic, and sheds like on many textures, patterns and grisly bits. However, the overall image is a little flushed, bleached, looking a lot of the time and I wanted it to be a bit more rich and bold, mainly in the color department. Maybe this is how it was intended. It makes up for it with a crisp picture and strong details.
Depth: The image features some good dimensional work. A lot of the claustrophobic interiors have a good amount of spacing between the foreground character and background. Everything is loose and free. Movements and smooth and cinematic.
Black Levels: Blacks are dark, but a hair lightened. Even in its depths, detail still shines through, like on the fishnets and leather that Melinda Clarke wears. Even in darkness hair follicles, ebrow hairs and shirt patterns, textures and fabrics and be seen.
Color Reproduction: This is the weak part of the transfer for me. Colors just feel a little bleached out. Reds stand out, but they could be a little richer. The yellow of the skin of the zombie at the beginning looks very good. Whites are strong as well. I feel like the clips from in the bonus feature interviews look a little stronger than when you’re actually watching the film.
Flesh Tones: Skin tones have a slight whited-out look and maintain that throughout the film’s duration. Facial features, which is important for this movie, are strong. Make up texture, blood spatter, moles, acne craters, lip texture and all the gashes and mutilations look fantastic in the transfer.
Noise/Artifacts: There is a light layer of grain and nothing else to really report.
Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English SDH
Dynamics: For only being a 2.0 track, this does a great job of filling out your room. There are some terrific low end sounds that boom quite well (A lot from the score). Effects, like the goopy devouring and mutilations sounds really crisp and well rounded, layered. There’s a solid balance between the score and the vocals and effects with this mix.
Low Frequency Extension: N/A
Surround Sound Presentation: N/A
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is slightly low in this mix, but its clear, clean and is audible in all instances.
- With Director Brian Yuzna
- With Star Melinda Clarke and Special Effects Supervisor Tom Rainone
Ashes To Ashes (HD, 26:48) – Director Brian Yuzna and writer John Penny sit and discuss the project from the involvement of securing the rights, figuring out a story angle, trying to do something different from the first two and all through production and its legacy.
Living Dead Girl (HD, 18:56) – An interview with Melinda Clarke. She talks about her inspiration to act, and where her career was leading into Return of the Living Dead 3. A non-horror fan, she talks about all the things in the film she enjoyed, tedious stuff and the uncomfortable stuff. She also talks about how she’s come to realize she did something special with conventions and the like.
Romeo Is Bleeding (HD, 17:21) – And interview with actor J. Trevor Edmond. The actor discusses his first starring role and that he prepared by studying and performing Romeo & Juliet as well as the “mix and match” audition process. He says he got along great with Melinda during a very compressed, challenging shooting schedule. Says that it wasn’t until 5 years ago that he’s really felt the effects of the film having a fanbase. He’s also got a unique take on 90s horror films as feeling like period horror films.
Trimark & Trioxin (HD, 13:33) – David Tripet (production executive) and editor Chris Roth give a bit of a background on how Trimark tried to get things done and acquiring the Return of the Living Dead franchise. Its neat to hear Tripet talk of assembling all the players behind the scenes for the movie. Chris Roth discusses his old Hollywood style of making the edits.
The Resurrected Dead (HD, 18:47) – Effects guys Steve “Tony Stark” Johnson and Chris Nelson (With a little bit from director Anthony Hickox who starred in the film) go into great deal on the tremendous effects work for the film. This also includes a ton of make-up/effects test footage and behind the scenes video.
Storyboard Gallery (HD, 5:51)
Still Gallery (HD, 3:54) – Promotional stills, concept art and poster design.
Theatrical Trailers (HD, 2:45) – 2 trailers
Return of the Living Dead 3 is probably one of the most overlooked and underrated zombie films of all time. No, seriously. And its great to see this film FINALLY getting some love and introspect on home video. This Blu-ray has a good video and audio presentation, having the film look better than ever before. The extras are quite abundant and are everything you’d be looking for. OH, and the film is uncut as well. Vestron Video continues not to let up and the last thing they’d do is disappoint. Grab this one as soon as you’re able!