Shakespeare might be the undisputed king of tragic romance, but director Brian Yuzna’s Return of the Living Dead III is the champ when it comes to zombies, romance, and film. The film has even inspired me to try my hand at horror-romance a couple of times in short story form.
RotLD3 came out in 1994 and is a sequel to the classic Return of the Living Dead (one of my favorite tragi-comedies). The US government continues their work on re-animating the dead for military use via a toxic gas.
MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT…
Colonel Reynolds, whose son Curt is in love with Julie (an extremely vivacious Melinda Clarke), heads the research lab doing the experiments. Julie asks Curt if he can take her inside the compound, and being a good boyfriend he agrees. Zombies escape, there is total chaos, and Curt and Julie hop aboard his motorcycle to escape.
Curt crashes the motorcycle, killing his beloved Julie.
I’m sure you can see where this is heading.
He takes Julie back to the compound and uses the gas to bring her back to ‘life’.
What follows is tragic, heartbreaking, and downright horrific. I won’t spoil the rest of the film, but I will say that Curt goes to great lengths to protect Julie, and Julie does her best to fight her brain-eating urges.
It is true love.
The way I see it, the film explores the scary lengths we will go to in order to protect our loved ones. It also makes a statement about how our intelligence drops when we’re in love. Other facets the film covers include the naivety of youth, a standard ‘government is evil’ warning, and perhaps a nod to the pleasures of S&M play.
Outside our two leads (Melinda Clarke and J. Trevor Edmond), the acting is atrocious. But the core of this story is Julie and Curt, and the two actors do a fantastic job and exhibit real chemistry. They carry the film.
Okay, I admit, even as a horror film, RotLD3 isn’t quite good. As mentioned, the acting is terrible, the set design is terrible, and even some of the zombies are less than impressive. There’s even a bit of old-fashioned racial insensitivity when Julie and Curt encounter a gang under a bridge. But the plot has some surprises and you have to have the cold dead heart of a zombie to not feel bad for Curt and Julie.
My personal attempts at writing horror-romance have mostly turned out…less impactful. Horror is tragedy. Romance often ends tragically. But I’ve found it challenging to combine the three (though they are themes I visit several times in my collection Irredeemable). I have nothing but the highest respect for director Brian Yuzna, Melinda Clarke, and J. Trevor Edmond for the film they made. Perhaps Yuzna is no Edgar Allan Poe, but RotLD3 does show that you don’t need perfection to create an entertaining and meaningful work of art and horror.
Jason Sizemore is a writer and editor who lives in Lexington, KY. He owns Apex Publications, an SF, fantasy, and horror small press, and has been nominated for the Hugo Award three times for his editing work on Apex Magazine. Stay current with his latest news and ramblings via his website http://jason-sizemore.com/ and his Twitter feed handle @apexjason.
Thanks to Jason for stopping by the blog. Jason's new collection of stories is out now, courtesy of Seventh Star Press, entitled Irredeemable. Here's the write-up on it via Amazon.com with a slew of links by which to purchase it:
Flowing like mists and shadows through the Appalachian Mountains come 18 tales from the mind of Jason Sizemore. Weaving together elements of southern gothic, science fiction, fantasy, horror, the supernatural, and much more, this diverse collection of short stories brings you an array of characters who must face accountability, responsibility, and, more ominously, retribution.Whether it is Jack Taylor readying for a macabre, terrifying night in “The Sleeping Quartet,” the Wayne brothers and mischief gone badly awry in “Pranks,” the title character in “The Dead and Metty Crawford,” or the church congregation and their welcoming of a special visitor in “Yellow Warblers,” Irredeemable introduces you to a range of ordinary people who come face to face with extraordinary situations.
Whether the undead, aliens, ghosts, or killers of the yakuza, dangers of all kinds lurk within the darkness for those who dare tread upon its ground. Hop aboard and settle in, Irredeemable will take you on an unforgettable ride along a dark speculative fiction road.