This is exactly why Judge Kristin Munson didn't go to the prom.
"Little lady, you get the machete"—Coach Keel
Remember what a magical night prom was? The crepe-paper decorations; the dresses that cost more than your car payment; the hordes of undead gnawing on your date. Good times.
Facts of the Case
It's the night of the Junior Prom and the dead couldn't have chosen a better time to return to the living. While zombies roam the streets in search of raw meat, the gymnasium is a veritable sushi bar of unsuspecting teens. Unfortunately, the fate of the town lies in the hands of the only kids not at the dance: a slacker, a cheerleader, a bully, and the Sci-Fi club.
It's going to be a very small Senior class.
Dance of the Dead is a fun reminder of when horror movies were about teenagers warding off guys in rubber suits and not misogynist wank material that would make even the Marquis DeSade feel queasy. Sure, we get zombies exploding from graves, baseball bat beat downs of the undead, and all sorts of flailing, decapitated body parts, but the difference is director Gregg Bishop sets up they mayhem as cathartic fun and not an endurance test for your gag reflex.
Both Bishop and writer Joe Ballarini admit they were inspired by '80s classics like Monster Squad and Return of the Living Dead (It's okay guys, we know you really got the idea from Verdict's production of Prombies) and it shows on every frame. They obviously love the genre and set out to make the kind of movie that they like to watch and not one that cashes in on what's hot at the box office. Between the glowing goo and the Pat Benatar cover, the movie definitely feels like something I wasted my teenaged Saturday afternoons watching.
By making the characters likable and casting actual teenagers to play them, Dance makes it easy to forgive that everyone is playing a generic teen movie type. Jared Kusnitz, a horror hybrid veteran after making this and Otis, plays Jimmy as an underachiever and not a total loser and Justin Welborn (The Signal) is clearly having a blast as the Southern-Fried school jackass.
Dance of the Dead is part of the new Ghost House Underground imprint, led by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, the team that gave the world the Evil Dead series. The line is designed to showcase "groundbreaking" independent horror movies by up and coming filmmakers, but most of the trailers for the seven other titles in this first wave serve up the same old slasher clichés. The only thing the discs really share are a clear slipcase with a skull logo so they'll all match on your shelf.
Both the audio and video transfers look great, despite the low-budget. The movie was filmed on HD but has the rich color depth of film and, because Bishop uses his CGI sparingly, only the sporadic visual noise in outdoor scenes gives it away. The extras kick off with a commentary by the dynamic writing and directing duo. Bishop and Ballarini are both funny, laid back guys who freely discuss the many production snags and and are quick to point out the best lines came from cast improv. Two featurettes about production and the special effects work tell you all you'll ever want to know about making an indie zom-com and treat you to footage of a stuntie repeatedly getting hit in the face with someone's crotch. The disc is topped off with deleted scenes from the first half of the movie with optional director's commentary and the short film "Voodoo," a five-minute horror slapstick that Bishop made as a college project. Bishop is big-headed about this one and his commentary is nowhere near as informative or enjoyable as his other tracks.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Slacker grows up, tries to save the world, and gets the girl. Dance
sounds a lot like
A horror flick with a lighter touch, Dance of the Dead has enough gore to gross-out and the right amount of '80s cheese to make you nostalgic. It's perfect Halloween viewing for you and your friends.
Court is in recess while the judge indulges her sudden craving for brai-i-i-ns.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Gregg Bishop and Joe Ballarini
Review content copyright © 2008 Kristin Munson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.