Brian Yuzna’s Return Of The Living Dead 3 is my baptism into this franchise, so to speak, and while I try overall to not just haphazardly launch into a franchise midway without regard for chronology, this was recommended to me by a friend and it’s one of her favourites so here we are. This was an absolute blast, and although it’s obvious this franchise had reached its ‘weird’ zenith, it’s ‘Jason Goes To Hell’ or ‘Michael Myers is actually in a Druid cult’ area of bonkers sequel writing, I love the ideas, special effects and fresh spin on the zombie genre found here, even if I had no context in regards to the many Living Dead films that led up to this point. There’s an army base where a gruff Colonel (Kent McCord) conducts bizarre experiments on the undead in a world that has been living with the existence of zombies so long they’ve just become like, part of the scenery, less of a novelty threat and more of a given. The general’s kid (J. Trevor Edmonds) is one of those motorbike riding, earring sporting, dreamy 90’s bad boys whose rebellious nature is constantly at odds with the shirt tucking, militaristic nature of his pops, who doesn’t approve of the girlfriend (Melinda Clarke) that he’s clearly very in love with. After a horrific bike accident leaves her on deaths’s door, the kid sneaks her into his dad’s facility in hopes of using the strange zombie necromancy within to resurrect his love. Well.. that just sounds like a recipe for chaos and indeed the film turns the dial way past eleven as some kind of otherworldly magick takes the girl over and she gains these snazzy, Hellraiser style clothes, weaponry and undead powers, with the makeup and costume department making her look fearsome and raw for the latter half of the film. What’s fascinating is that she doesn’t really lose her humanity either and doesn’t become a shambling corpse, she metamorphoses into this mesmerizing amalgamation of a bloodthirsty monster who needs to eat human flesh but with her emotions, drives and her thinking skills of a human being still clearly intact, gilded by these striking costume choices and surgically implanted, jagged looking weaponry. The character is a stroke of genius, actress Clarke sells every facet of it from the longing for her former self and her love for her boyfriend to her burgeoning primordial need to cause mayhem and carnage, she’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen in horror and I would have loved to see a whole spinoff franchise just about her. There’s a rather silly subplot where a loud, obnoxious Mexican street gang begins to transform into zombie-like creatures as well and it’s got its charms including a neat effect where a detached spinal column terrorizes anyone around it. The film works best when it focuses on the girlfriend and her chrysalis-esque remoulding into this spectacular undead demigod though, and I’d heavily recommend the film just for that event alone. Soon I’ll explore this franchise more in depth and have a better grasp on the world building and storytelling, but if the rest are anything like this, baby I’m sold.