David Poe (Eric Clawson) is a director making a low-budget zombie movie in an abandoned hospital. He and his crew: makeup guy and best friend Paul (Brett Beardslee), leading ladies (who are also his sisters) Nina (Kimberly Pullis) and Shelly (Wendy Speake), leading man Eric (Benjamin P. Morris), production assistant Topaz (Jamie Donahue), extra Marcus (Rick Irwin), and cameraman Chas (David Douglas) are menaced by real zombies after finding (and trying to use in the movie) the corpse of a mad scientist. The guy was trying to bring his deceased wife back to life and ended up as just an unusually smart zombie with an army of the undead. It’s up to David and company to stop him before he ruins the movie.
I first saw The Dead Hate the Living! ten years ago, and hated it. I was curious whether I’d like it better now that I’m older and have a few film classes under my belt. When I realized it was made by Full Moon Pictures, I inwardly groaned; that company is responsible for a slew of low-budget movies, some terrible. But I found myself liking the film this time.
There’s a fairly large cast of main characters, but they’re introduced slowly and are easy to tell apart. They’re pretty likable too, except for supremely evil Nina. The acting is surprisingly decent for a low budget film. The special effects are crappy, but fortunately the filmmakers mostly rely on makeup, which they’re much better at. The script is somewhat original—it’s a neat little movie within a movie. I enjoy how it plays with horror movie clichés but doesn’t drown the movie in them, trying to make it into a spoof. It’s like a love song to horror fans, with its constant references to famous horror makers; in an hour and a half it manages to allude to Lucio Fulci, George Romero, Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, Bruce Campbell, Mary Shelley, and Edgar Allen Poe.
It’s not quite a horror comedy, but it has its funny moments. My favorite quote is when Topaz, against David’s wishes, tries to reason with a zombie and find out what it wants; it conveys in zombiespeak that it and its brethren want to kill people. David snaps, “See? I told you, that’s all they ever want!” I’m also amused at how the romantic subplot between David and Topaz is downplayed in favor of the relationship between David and Paul. While they’re not an official item, they’re extremely close, and have a tendency to nuzzle each other. David doesn’t kiss Topaz (besides a peck to manipulate her) until after Paul is incapacitated. It’s really too bad—David and Paul make a much cuter couple.
The only problem I have with the movie is the wildly unrealistic scene when Topaz, purchasing for the movie, buys hemorrhoid cream, an armload of junk food, and eight boxes of condoms—all for $33.69! That’s both unrealistic and possibly a cheap sex joke. But overall, it’s humorous and clever. Watch for a brief appearance by Sharknado director Anthony C. Ferrante as a store customer.