Sunday, November 9, 2008


Gregg Bishop's 2008 high school zombie movie DANCE OF THE DEAD (part of the Ghost House collective) was supposedly written ten years prior, before the recent undead boom. Maybe that's why it feels so tired and familiar, because I know I've seen this plot before.

In a concept we've seen in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS and BOY EATS GIRL (with the same results), the living dead have risen to feed upon high school students at the prom. And wouldn't you know, the only ones who can save the day are the unpopular geeks that couldn't get a date--had this happened to me when I was in school, I'd have let the zombies eat the motherfuckers, but I'm an anti-social sort. And while I liked the semi-twist of having the phys ed instructor helping the boys, the plot still reeks of desperate wish-fulfillment.

Bishop's directorial style is superficial gloss and flash, but it's never strong or distinctive enough to distract from the well-worn storyline--though there might be enough gore to keep people interested. Instead of trying too hard to be funny, Bishop should've focused on a sense of anarchy, a balls-to-the-wall mentality that would've complemented this picture so much better.

Occupying that gray area between not-bad and not-good, DANCE OF THE DEAD is the type of high-school tripe where you know upfront exactly who'll live and who'll die. Maybe if I'd encountered this earlier in the project I might've been a little more charitable, but by this point I'm simply tired of seeing this plot.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 was scarier.


Anonymous said...

Scott Emerson, I found your review of this movie totally inaccurate. You want a serious movie about prom being attacked by zombies? Really!?

I thought this movie was one of the best zombie films I've seen in a long time, and I'm surprised to find a bad review for it.

Here's a more accurate review from Bloody-Disgusting:

By: Tex Massacre

Read David Harley's review here:

Fast Zombies? Slow Zombies? How about zombies that burst out of their graves in a cloud of torn earth and hit the ground running in a frenzy of fury? That’s how it happens here and it’s also how I would describe Director Gregg Bishop’s horror hybrid DANCE OF THE DEAD. It explodes like a shotgun blast of pure teen comedy and devastates everything in its path with a battery of torn off limbs, bashed in brains, severed spinal cords and a night at the prom that makes CARRIE look like PRETTY IN PINK.

Cosa High School is pretty much like every other High School in America. The teens that attend Cosa are all preoccupied with the usuals—getting laid and getting ready for the big dance…The Prom. Jimmy (Jared Kusnitz, OTIS) and Lindsey (Greyson Chadwick) aren’t your typical high school couple. He’s jaded and chill about the whole affair; she’s indulging in the entire archetypal hullabaloo surrounding the annual rituals of teendom. The rest of the school is occupied by an assorted cast of stereotypes, ripped right out of the John Hughes universe—The Science Club, The Cheerleaders, The Prom Queen, The Rock Star and the Charlie Sheen delinquent that looks like he should have graduated about a decade earlier. Together these polar opposites must unite to save their special night from an all out undead assault of the most outrageous, most sanguine and most irrepressibly hilarious horror comedy since SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

I’ve said it before, it’s difficult if not damn near impossible to really pull off homage. You have to forgo the obvious and create a living breathing entity that can stand wholly on its own. If you don’t do that, you’ve cut off half of your audience before they ever see the first five minutes of your magnum opus. What writer Joe Ballarini and Director Gregg Bishop (THE OTHER SIDE) accomplish is the very nearly impossible—a fully functional film that delivers the laugh-a-minute but heartfelt humor of AMERICAN PIE with the furious gore of 28 DAYS LATER. The film never gives up it’s horror to service its comedy and in the same respect it waters down the laughs in order to up the tension. I struggle to remember the last time I was instantly blown away by a film—especially a horror comedy.

The script is tight as a noose. All of the characters are enjoyable and well acted, lead by Jared Kusnitz who delivers a hilariously matter of fact character—totally annoyed at the situation but forced to take a stand and save his friends—there’s no great dramatic arc for Kusnitz to play, but his teenage-Rambo one-liners and genuinely organic screen presence make it impossible not to like the dude. Greyson Chadwick lends a heightened level of sing-song-reality to her performance—her Lindsey never utters filmdom’s favorite four letter word. Instead she simple wonders what the “F” is going on! It’s endearing and once again, it differentiates her character from the rest of the pack. Joe Ballarini’s script carefully fleshes out each of these kids not by providing excesses of discourse or long-winded pages of backstory. The film flies too fast for any of that. No, instead these kids are defined and differentiated by what they accomplish in the film and with each other. If any actor steals the show it’s Justin Welborn (THE SIGNAL) who plays the student delinquent Kyle. As I mentioned before Welborn look a decade—at minimum—too old to be playing a high school student but that matters little because as insane as he is, his performance is so well executed that it virtually explodes off the screen—you buy every second.

Speaking of buying every second, that incredibly difficult tenet is where most horror films and most comedies fail. When you blend the pair together you can throw all logic right out the window—unless you can make that world exist in celluloid as an absolute reality. Gregg Bishop, his cast and his crew deliver that promise as swiftly and with as much deadly precision as a machete to the neck—severing DANCE OF THE DEAD from the legions of “zomedy’s” that have shuffled DOA on to DVD and into theaters over the past several years.

Slow Zombies vs. Fast Zombies? Straight Horror? Satirical Horror? When it’s this much fun who gives a fuck! DANCE OF THE DEAD is the best horror comedy of this or any other year. Now bring it on…

Score: 10 / 10

Scott Emerson said...

Was I expecting a serious movie? Not at all. I probably would've enjoyed this more if it hadn't come so late in the project, but by Day 363 a movie would've had to been phenomenal to really faze me. (And besides, you know what they say about opinions.)

Maybe someday I'll give this one another shake.