e-mail:Smokey X. Digger
The Dead Hate the Living!
1999, Dir. Dave Parker
I've been waiting a long time to tee off on this movie. Now, however, I wonder if I really want to. I've been searching the memory banks for the perfect review with which to ring in the return of Iniquity Films properly, and I settled on this little flick. Being a Full Moon product, it has no right to be as problematical as it is. But it's Full Moon's zombie flick. And I like zombies. I'd like to just say that The Dead Hate the Living is a classic example of trying too hard. But dammit, at least someone's trying.
Oy, these human entrails really back me up.
The film opens with a Rob Zombie type fella talking to the camera as a zombie tries to bust through a door and get at him. Apparently our friend is having some Herbert West-ish problems with aggressive reanimated corpses and has decided he just can't go on. He expresses a desire to "join his legions" and puts a gun to his head, but the zombie breaks through the door and pseudo-Rob joins his legions in a different way than he had intended. Then we cut to a hospital, Halloween night (natch), where a doctor is about to autopsy someone who apparently went trick-or-treating as a cross between a banana and Col. Manning from the second "Colossal Man" flick. The corpse comes back to life and kills the doctor, drags her onto the operating table and begins making out with her vigorously. She in turn comes back to life and returns the favor. CUT! No, that wasn't me, that was the director. You see, our main characters are a bunch of no-budget filmmakers out to make a zombie epic in the mold of Romero, Fulci, et al. Problems are abounding on the set, which happens to be an abandoned hospital in which they are shooting illegally. Director David Poe has cast his sister Shelly as the female lead, a role coveted by his other sister Nina, a world-class bitch who's fronting some dough for the production. The rest of the crew you can tell is strictly cannon fodder, except for "goth" chick Topaz who becomes David's romantic interest. They stumble upon the prologue guy's (whose name is apparently Eibon) laboratory which contains a huge sarcophagus covered in runic type inscriptions. This of course is seen as the ultimate prop, even when Eibon falls out of it, quite dead. They stick him back in it, begin shooting, inadvertently ressurect him, and he brings company.
The bad guys are defintely the strong point of this flick. In the "damning with faint praise" category, Eibon is probably the best actor in the bunch. His buddies "Gaunt" and "Maggot" are really creative and well done. With a budget of only $150,000, the make-up effects are better than they should be. They chase our heroes around the hospital, occasionally killing one and dragging him back to the ressurection machine to turn him into an honest to goodness zombie. As the cast and crew are whittled down to Dave, Topaz, and Dave's best friend and make up guy Paul, Topaz is seized by Gaunt and dragged away to become Eibon's bride. Dave and Paul manage to elude zombie hordes by using a technique that totally negates something that happened earlier in the film. Only Dave and Topaz make it to the ending, quite similar to that of The Beyond. (If you're unfamiliar with The Beyond, click on that link for The Bad Movie Report's review.)
Director Dave Parker likes The Beyond. A lot. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I too enjoy The Beyond. But it's in his fervence for Fulci and things of that ilk that the film veers dangerously towards snooty territory. There are references to (and I probably missed a few) Blackest Heart Media, David Warbeck, The Beyond, Tim Burton's Ed Wood, Lucio Fulci, George Romero, Tom Savini, Fulci again, Jack Nicholson's Roger Corman films, Scream, Fulci's effects guy Gianetto De Rossi, Dick Miller, Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, and The Misfits. Naming a character Eibon also makes connections with Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft, even though Eibon was most likely taken from the book in (wait for it) The Beyond. If I really wanted to be an asshole I would emphasize the Lovecraft connection by saying that the cameraman's death is lifted from Lovecraft's "The Lurking Fear" and that the actress who plays Topaz looks like Barbara Crampton. But I don't want to be an asshole. Ergo:
Nina, although she is the film's disagreeable bitch, makes an elucidating comment. Director David tells his male lead that he'll be the next David Warbeck. Of course, noone knows who David Warbeck is. After David explains that Warbeck is a horror icon, Nina sums up the male lead's career trajectory by stating that "a small, obsessed group of people" will know who he is. Dave Parker is obviously a member of that group. And whether I want to admit it or not, so am I. Sure, it's obnoxious to make a reference to Gianetto De Rossi. But I picked up on it. Sure, it's obnoxious to reference Jack Nicholson's early works. But I know that they're referring to The Terror and The Raven. Dave Parker made this movie with people like me in mind. We're constantly complaining that nobody wants to make a good old-fashioned horror flick anymore, that everything's gotta be teenagers running from guys in flowing black garments with hooks and knives, and that noone's making horror movies for us. Well Dave Parker is, and to mock his film is to mock ourselves.
IN CLOSING: The Dead Hate the Living is not a classic. It does, at times, wear it's influences a little too proudly. But it's heart is in the right place. Just for the fact that someone working in films is concerned with bringing back the spirit of Fulci, and Evil Dead, and zombie flicks in general, we should be proud and supportive. Rent The Dead Hate the Living, let Full Moon know that the interest is there, and perhaps Dave Parker's next flick will have less restrictions. And maybe somewhere down the road, we can stop complaining.
A review by someone who knows what they're doing: Cold Fusion Video