Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'The Dead Hate the Living' is hit and miss

The Dead Hate the Living (2000)
Starring: Eric Clawson, Jamie Donahue, Brett Beardslee, Benjamin P. Morris, Wendy Speake, and Matt Stephens
Director: Dave Parker
Producers: Charles Band and Kirk Edward Hansen
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A bunch of amateurs shooting a horror movie in an abandoned hospital stumble upon an experiment by a mad scientist (Stephens) who was trying to merge this dimension with one inhabited by zombies. Needless to say, they mess around, and soon they are living their zombie movie, as freakish undead stalk and add them to their ranks, one by one.

"The Dead Hate the Living" is another one of those tongue-in-cheek, third-wall horror movies that's full of in-jokes and references to other horror films. It's a movie with geeks as the main characters, and it's targeted (I imagine) primarily at movie geeks. Although, frankly, I found the director (Eric Clawson) and his sidekick/special effects-and-makeup-guy (Brett Beardslee) to be almost immediately unsympathetic because of the way they rolled their eyes when their lead actor (Benjamin P. Morris) didn't know who Dick Miller and some other B-movie actor was. I suspect the writer/director of the film was trying to make identify with and like these two, who are the film's heroes after all, because of their Geekier-Than-Thou attitudes... but, frankly, I've always been annoyed by people like that. Being obsessed with trivia does not make someone talented or capable.

That annoyance aside, I enjoyed many aspects of this film. The story, while hardly original, was fun... and it was funny where it was supposed to be funny, and creepy where it was supposed to be creepy. (Although, in some ways. the film-within-the-film seems like it would be far more horrific than what we actually get.)

The film's fatal flaw, however, is that it was probably made by inexperienced people from the actors through to the director. While the acting is better than what is found in many low-budget films of this caliber, the performers constantly dutifully wait for the other people in a scene to finish their lines before they start their own; even in situations where they're being chased by monsters, the characters very politely wait for the other person to finish what they're saying before they start talking. While the dialogue has a realistic sound to it, the way it's delivered doesn't seem realistic, and it gives each and every scene a sluggish pace.

(There are also a couple of elements that I didn't quite care for, such as why the actors look like their zombie make-up when they become living dead, and where all those zombies in the "Hammer Films Graveyard" set come from. Both of those are nonsensical elements that detracted rather than added to the film. And I'm not even going to comment on the illogic and just plain idiocy that leads to the zombies being unleashed upon the unsuspecting film crew. Suffice to say, it makes the characters from "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" look like Nobel Prize winners. )

In the hands of a more experienced director, or perhaps with some more rehersal time for the actors, I think this film could have been a pretty decent little zombie movie. As it is, it's a little too weak to go out of your way for.

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Thanks for sharing your opinion. I love seeing what fellow fans have to say!