What could be better than a bunch of Italian horror buffs making their own zombie flick in a spooky abandoned hospital? Being attacked by the real thing, of course. The Dead Hate the Living echoes with such American genre classics as Phantasm, The Evil Dead, and Scream, but it's ultimately a love letter to the nightmarish scenarios and visual freakouts of Italian horror pictures. The hapless crew discovers a creepy black altar (complete with its own decorative corpse) and incorporates it into their film. When their scripted ceremony opens a portal from another dimension and unleashes an army of rampaging zombies, the hallways become flooded in red and blue and green pools of light for no good reason other than it looks cool. The hospital is suddenly adrift in an alternate reality because... well, just because. Writer-director Dave Parker never tries to explain the madness (a zombie's exclamation, "Hate the living! Love the dead!" is as much motive as we're offered), choosing instead to simply plunge viewers into the inspired mayhem. What makes it all work is a love of the genre, a cast of energetic, likable performers, cool zombie makeup, and a sure, stylish hand. Horror movie mavens will pick up on oodles of clever references (a bumper sticker that reads "Fulci lives"; a zombie king commanding, "Make them die... slowly"), but these are merely asides in an accomplished, clever, and remarkably entertaining indie horror riff. --Sean Axmaker
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