The Dead Hate the Living (1999) Movie Review

After finding a dead body stuffed inside a strange-looking coffin in the basement of the condemned building they’re using to film their horror movie, our group of intrepid low-budget filmmakers decides to use the body as part of their film. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is the sort of “smarts” that runs through every single frame of The Dead Hate the Living. Which is to say watching any Zombie Flick with your brain turned on is asking for trouble. You can’t approach low-budget fare like The Dead Hate the Living with the mentality of a college professor, or even an educated person. In fact, it would help quite a bit if you came into this viewing having indulged in too much alcohol or perhaps some other, er, mind altering aids.

Dave Parker’s The Dead Hate the Living opens with that biggest clich’ of movie cliché, the “filming of a horror movie scene within the horror movie.” Once it’s established that we’re dealing with a group of 20-somethings attempting to make their own horror opus, we discover that our horror enthuses are filming inside a condemned building.

The crack film crew is led by David Poe, who has somehow roped his two bickering sisters, Shelly and Nina, into starring in his first ever feature length horror film. David is aided by his childhood buddy and fellow horror fanboy Eric, the special effects expert. It isn’t long before the group discovers that the building they’re shooting in was the scene of a zombie experiment just days ago. Before you can say, “Groovy!” our filmmakers stumble upon a corpse, an ancient looking coffin, and other assorted things like bottled body parts and odd electrical…doohickeys.

The Dead Hate the Living is a low-budget film. Let’s get that out of the way first, shall we? The movie’s auteur, Dave Parker, has filled his spectacle with winks to his favorite writers, directors, and actors in the horror genre, most notably the subcategory of Zombie Flicks. At one point in the movie, a character being stalked by zombies wonders out loud, “What would Bruce Campbell do?” Anyone familiar with Zombie Flicks will know Bruce Campbell, the actor who plays Ash, the star of pre-mainstream Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. (In fanboy world, Campbell is a superstar.)

On more than one occasion, boom mikes make involuntary appearances and other amateurish incidents take place, as if to remind us that this film is being shot with the smallest of budgets. The movie has only one real location, the condemned building, and its various floors and back rooms. There is another location, the interior of a store, but I suspect the “store” was actually a renovated room within the condemned building. Despite all that, you have to give director Parker credit for crafting a pretty entertaining film. The man knows his genre and gives us everything we want in our Zombie Flicks: stupid dialogue, gallons of blood, disgusting “zombie” appearances, torn limbs and lest I forget, Ash-like chainsaw action!

Movies in this genre is never known for their acting, and The Dead Hate the Living is no exception. The acting in the film’s first 20 minutes is excruciatingly bad, although it does get much better as the film moves on. At the risk of assuming too much, I would guess that the film was shot in the order it was written on the script, and the scenes that you see first are indeed the first scenes shot in the overall film, thus the actors are still too stiff and haven’t yet “gotten into the groove.” At least that’s my guess.

The acting does get much better as the film progresses, though. Of note is Kimberly Pullis (Nina Poe), who was given the role of “hell bitch” and decided to overstay her welcome about 10 seconds after her appearance. (True to all horror films, the “dick” character is the first one to go. See ya, Nina!) Wendy Speake (Shelly) fares better as David’s under appreciated sister. As the movie’s main driving forces, Eric Clawson (David) and Benjamin Morris (Eric) does okay. Of the two, Clawson has a better handle on his character and shows more range. Morris’ acting is average at best, with moments of weakness.

The rest of the cast includes a pot-smoking cameraman, a vain actor who needs a demo reel, and a Rob Zombie-like mad scientist type who plays the film’s heavy. (Rob Zombie as head of the zombies, get it?) Another actor of note is Jamie Donahue (Topaz), who despite a bad first scene, eventually warms to the movie and shows her acting chops. It doesn’t hurt that she’s easy on the eyes, another good Zombie Flick addition.

Movies like The Dead Hate the Living rely on its zombie creations more than anything else. The zombies in this movie are an assorted bunch, from a freaky giant to a wrestler-type fellow to ordinary folks turned dead. The end result is that they aren’t very scary, don’t act very scary, and sometimes forgets that they’re zombies and races around like they’re, well, not living dead people. (The wrestler-type fellow comes to mind.) Re: they are not scary at all. And yet, I didn’t mind. Zombie Flicks can have goofy zombies if the goofiness is established early and followed through. That’s the case with this movie.

The Dead Hate the Living is a gore fest, so all of you gore fans will be happy. Once the killings start, they don’t stop. At one point, a zombie punches a hole through a character’s gut, rips out his intestines, and then drags the dead man up a hallway by his intestines! Now that’s what I call a good kill. So check your brain at the door and step in for a good time. Forget the wandering boom mike in the morgue scene or the bad “personal” scenes, and you’ll have a ball.

Dave Parker (director) / Dave Parker (screenplay)
CAST: Eric Clawson …. David Poe
Benjamin P. Morris …. Eric
Jamie Donahue …. Topaz
Doyle Rockwell …. Zombie Corps
Matt Stephens …. Dr. Eibon

Buy The Dead Hate the Living on DVD