Playing it straight, sans humor or spoof, “Return of the Living Dead 3” departs from the first two films of the horror series that began in 1985. In an effort to capture the youth market, this B pic emphasizes a love story gone awry at the expense of constructing a scary plot. Opening on Halloween weekend, pic will benefit from the timing of its release and some support of genre aficionados but will soon join its predecessors in videoland.
Tale begins with two attractive lovebirds, Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) and Julie (Mindy Clarke), sneaking into his father’s Army research lab, where experiments are conducted with Trioxin, a chemical capable of bringing the dead back to life , which was introduced in the series’ first installment. When Julie dies in a tragic motorcycle accident, the heartbroken Curt is determined to keep her alive by exposing her to the “magical” chemical.
What ensues is a pedestrian, gruesome but never really scary story of how the zombies interact with the living. Serving as background is the yarn of a military scientist and insensitive father (Kent McCord), about to be relieved from his top-ranking position by the Pentagon’s new female chief (Sarah Douglas) , and losing the affection of his son, whom he had neglected after his wife’s death.
As producer-director, Brian Yuzna demonstratestechnical competence and a good sense of tempo, but he’s ultimately defeated by uninvolving, mechanical script.
“Return of the Living Dead 3” boasts the dubious achievement of using five different special-effects experts — the superior Sam Raimi’s “Army of Darkness” reportedly held the previous record of a four-member crew. This may be why, after the story reaches its climax and resolution, pic goes on for another act, entirely composed of special effects that are excessive in every way, if also well-executed.
Judging by the final results, it might have been a mistake to eliminate the comedy; the two previous installments, which spoofed George Romero’s 1968 classic, “Night of the Living Dead,” are much more entertaining. Overall, the weaker episodes of “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” are more effective than “Return of the Living Dead 3,” a horror flick that is ghastly and repulsive but never creepy or frightening.