Dance of the Dead has the look and feel of a disastrous zombie flick. It has a bunch of no name teenage looking actors and actresses. A plot (Zombies rise from the dead on the night of the prom and high schoolers have to fight for their lives and their town) ripped from several other zombie movies. A movie poster eerily similar to that of 2004’s amazing “zombedy” Shaun of the Dead. And, on top of all this, a director with virtually no feature film directing experience.
But this, true believers (Yes, I just pulled a Stan Lee reference out of my ass. You don’t like it? Go read a DC comic then you pussy. Yeah I know Batman is good, but other than that, DC sucks.) is why we watch movies, and THEN decide if they suck or not. Or at least some of us do.
Dance of the Dead managed to do something that all good horror, and especially zombie flicks, HAVE to do. Make the most out of the pieces you have. If you look back in the legendary genesis of the zombie flick, you will quickly find out that the best of the bunch, even the ones done by famed directors like Romero and Fulci, were done on smaller budgets without the luxury of having big stars to bank on for success. Dance does this wonderfully, making even the predictable and annoying characters seem likable. And if they weren’t likable, then they at least had the presence of mind to kill them off early!
This all brings me to my first point. The cast here, again full of people who’s biggest project to date seems to be Dance of the Dead itself, are all very competent. The movie is exactly demanding, but it still has a lot of dialogue, and without people to spew those words out, however trite or meaningless, it’s difficult to make a movie work. The saving grace seems to be the comedy within the conversations though. Nothing is taken to seriously in Dance of the Dead, and that lightens the load for everyone involved. It’s a feel good, fun time zombie flick, and the cast seem to reflect that with the youthful energy being the driving force.
Direction here is solid, but not in the least bit flashy or pretentious. There some nifty use of heavy lighting and filters, the cornerstones of any 80’s “Return of the living Dead” style zombie flick, but other than that, everything’s played pretty straight forward, and I for one have no problem with that. If you don’t feel comfortable as a director taking chances and being experimental, there’s no need to force it. That “comfort” is actually a strength to the film, and I felt right at home with the direction, and thankfully nothing was ruined by the dreaded “shaky cam” or choosing shitty angles to shoot the action on. Simply put, the camera work never gets in the way of the fun.
Gore and special effects are all good, but it’s most likely all stuff experienced zombie fans have seen before. Doesn’t mean it isn’t highly entertaining, and some of the bullet wounds are particularly graphic. There’s also a head split in half the long way, and a severed head “still alive” gag that is very cool. Nothing here will have you howling or calling your friends to tell them “how awesome that kill just was”, but it’s all impressive none the less, and thankfully, almost totally free of any cgi. Yay! Here at the Midnight Showing we basically have one rule concerning our gore and special f/x, and that is “Fuck CGI!”
If you couldn’t tell by now, Dance of the Dead is a movie that has all the elements to become a cult classic. Sure, that’s pretty cliche to say, but when a movie has it, it just has it. I think the director has a pretty good handle on this zombie thing, and if he continues to interject the brand of humor in his future flicks, he should make some very interesting stuff. Also, some of the actors and actress’s are surely going to be noticed because of this film.
If your looking for a light-hearted, “Shaun of the Dead” style zombie flick, and you can appreciate flicks that pay obvious homage to what’s come before it (Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps), then you should get plenty of enjoyment out of Dance of the Dead.
If only my prom was overrun by zombies.