Return of the Living Dead is one of my favorite horror franchises and both the first and second film have a good balance of comedy and horror. However, when it came time to do the third movie, director Brian Yuzna wanted to take a different approach.
He wanted a tragic romance story, and that’s exactly what he made. Right off the bat, you can sense a tone shift within the film’s score. In previous films, the music was more playful, elevating the comedy as much as the horror. In the third film, the score (composed by Barry Goldberg and John Philip Shenale) is much darker throughout. The two leads, J. Trevor Edmond and Melinda Clark, have solid chemistry and do a fine job portraying a loving couple. Without considering consequence, they will turn to a zombie virus to extend their time together.
In the first two installments, some of the zombies have a cartoonish style to them, very much in the vein of EC Comics. Big eyes and teeth, just look at Tarman! In this one, they have more of a traditional zombie aesthetic. We spend most of the movie following Julie, who was resurrected with the virus. Instead of seeing a horde of zombies, we see someone who is turning into something that craves human flesh. We get some great scenes out of this, one of my favorites is when Julie modifies her body with various sharp objects. The pain keeps her hunger at bay, well, for the most part. She would rather inflict pain on herself than her lover. Yuzna also shows how the government is still keeping the virus under wraps. That’s another aspect that separates Return of the Living Dead from other zombie movies. In these movies, the military always seems to clean things up and manages the situation. Of course, their solution isn’t always a good thing for the would-be victims.
Return of the Living Dead 3 is currently available on Blu-Ray and DVD.