Plot: Col. John Reynolds (Kent McCord) is the head of a top secret military project, which involves research into a new, very unusual method of warfare. Reynolds and his team have used a chemical to re-animate the corpses, which of course make excellent soldiers, as they’re dangerous and expendable. He has now figured out how to control them to an extent and on this night, he is to make a presentation to show his work, with a lot of pressure involved. As he demonstrates his project, his son Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) and his girlfriend Julie (Melinda Clarke) sneak inside the lab to watch, unknown to anyone else. The presentation starts off well and a corpse is returned to life, then stunned into paralysis, but when it wakes up again and attacks the guards, all hell breaks loose. Curt is later informed he must move with his father to a new town, which results in he and Julie leaving in a rush, to start a life of their own. But then an accident happens and Julie is smashed into a telephone pole, leaving her totally lifeless. This shatters Curt and since he remembers what he saw at the lab, he decides to use his stolen pass to go back and re-animate his deceased lover…
Entertainment Value: This movie is likely best remembered for Melinda Clarke’s pierced nipples, but Return of the Living Dead 3 has more to offer than bare breasts and is a fun, rock solid sequel. This movie drops the slapstick tone of the previous two movies, at least for the most part, going for a darker vision of the zombies, as well as a romance thread. The relationship between Curt and Julie is what drives the movie of course, as the star crossed lovers attempt to keep the spark alive, even as Julie craves brains and decomposes. This approach is uneven at times, but pumps some new blood into the formula and after the second film felt more like a remake than a sequel, a fresh approach was welcome. Julie is one of the more interesting zombies in horror cinema as well, using self harm in an attempt to cope with her undead desires, which adds a dark, sometimes sad element to the character. I do miss the wackiness of the earlier films, especially because some scenes here seem like an ideal fit for that, but this is still good fun and checks most of the zombie horror boxes off. This one has cool zombies, a good pace, an undead romance, government evil, and the immortal Melinda Clarke topless scenes, so Return of the Living Dead 3 is well recommended.
If there was a hall of fame for zombies, Melinda Clarke’s Julie would be enshrined there, without question. She is so bad ass in this role, both as Julie before the infection and as the undead version. As the zombie, she doesn’t just grunt and growl, she turns in a great performance that has a lot more depth than you’d expect. This is still a campy horror movie at heart, but Clarke brings a lot to the role of Julie and doesn’t coast when she turns zombified. Her pierced topless scene might be the most iconic moment in the movie, but she delivers on all fronts, not just the sleaze. She and J. Trevor Edmond have terrific chemistry and the romance feels believable, especially by b movie horror kind of standards. Movies have given us some terrific, memorable zombies over the years, but Julie is right at the top of that list.
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times here, the movie has one of the most iconic topless scenes in all of horror, so that’s worth some points. Clarke bares her breasts in several scenes and while brief, the quality helps compensate. The movie is generous with the red stuff however, offering a good amount of violence and bloodshed. This includes some fun finger chomping, a face is ripped off, splashy stab wounds with various implements, gun based violence, partial decapitation, and general zombie bite wounds. Most of the effects look good and drip with crimson, while the zombie designs are creative and quite memorable. The dialogue is fine, if not overly memorable, with Curt getting some fun lines and his whining entertains at times. The writing isn’t the film’s strong suit, but at least Curt gets some attention. As for craziness, the wild zombie designs and violence add some points, but this is a more serious approach that avoids over the top madness, for better or worse.
Overall Insanity: 3/10