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cast: Jared Kusnitz, Greyson Chadwick, Chandler Darby, and Carissa Capobianco
director: Gregg Bishop
84 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2 retail
review by Mark West
Dance Of The Dead
Focusing on the prom night of the local high school, this is kind of film I imagine
Night Of The Living Dead would have been like, had John Hughes
remade it in the 1980s. Opening in a cemetery, flanked by ominous looking cooling towers, the groundskeeper makes his way around the graves
and appears to be collecting disembodied - moving - body parts.
At the prom, Lindsey (Greyson Chadwick) is busy making plans whilst her erstwhile boyfriend Jimmy (Jared Kusnitz) is getting himself into
trouble, along with his friend Steven (Chandler Darby), who fancies cheerleader Gwen (Carissa Capobianco). Steven's friends from the sci-fi
club - including Jules (Randy McDowell) and George (Michael V. Mammoliti) - have their own plans for prom night, taking some ghost-busting
equipment to the cemetery from the opening scene. As night falls, all hell literally breaks loose and the teens band together to try and stop
the zombie plague from taking over the town.
Watched in the right frame of mind (which is going to be depend heavily on whether you like films about teenagers in high school or if you
prefer your zombie films to be gore-fests), this isn't a bad little film at all. Never quite descending into all-out horror - there are some
nice effects, but most are very quickly done - this keeps things moving at a lively pace and has a few laugh-out-loud moments.
The cast do well, with all of them actually looking like teenagers, which makes a change, and all of the characters act as you'd expect,
within their stereotype (nerd, jock, cheerleader, rebel etc), there's even a bullying redneck, who comes good in the end.
Ably directed, there are a few stand-out set pieces, especially the mortuary sequence where the gang gets attacked by various cadavers
(including a couple in bags) and there's a sequence in the cemetery once the dead start to rise, showing the corpses literally bursting out
of the graves, which is both frightening and original. The climax, at the prom itself, features less zombies than we've seen before - which
is a bit of an anti-climax - but there's a wonderful moment when Jimmy and Lindsey re-connect and have a little dance.
Also, as a nice touch, it appears that zombies are calmed to the point of inertia by rock music, which is always useful to know! As for the
zombies, they are very much of the new school - very, very fast at times (one, in the funeral home, even has her own jump-cuts, which is
quite startling when you see it the first time) - and owe quite a debt to Dan O'Bannon's ghouls, even saying "brains!" at one point. Two
also steal a car at one point, which is a new one on me.
The special effects' make-up is generally good and there didn't appear to be any repetition of make-up (unlike the later Romero films),
which was nice - the CGI visual effects are also well handled and apart from an obvious matte of the power station, don't hog the screen too
Obviously a labour of love from the writer and director (witness the scores of people individually credited as zombies/ extras and the
'special thanks' which must run close to 100 names) and made on a low budget, this is smart and ambitious, knowing its limits but willing
to push them and it quite nicely sets up for a sequel too.
If you like your zombie horror gory and dark, Dance Of The Dead isn't the film for you. If you like a zombie romp (think of this as
a kind of younger sibling to Zombieland), then you'll be in for a treat.
The only extra on my screener copy was a set of deleted or extended scenes.