Dance of the Dead, 2008
directed by Gregg Bishop
starring Jared Kusnitz, Greyson Chadwick, Mark Oliver
This is the fourth time I’ve watched Dance of the Dead since its 2008 release, and for some reason I worried that with getting older or having seen more and more films from the zombie comedy genre, that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much or think it’s juvenile and stereotypical. However, each time watching this movie has been a laugh out loud funny, bloody, and cutely romantic blast each time for me. The zombie comedy genre was pretty flooded for a while, with Shaun of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead and a hidden Hong Kong gem Bio-Zombie being the most borrowed from in my opinion. And while Dance of the Dead has a few characters and gags with familiar foundations of other films, it’s still unique, funny and charming enough to be considered one of the better entries in the genre. The plot here is the way zombie movies should be in my opinion: Simple. In a typical unnamed American suburb, a nuclear power plant that oversees a graveyard releases a nondescript chemical that falls upon the graves and reanimates the dead bodies into rabid zombies. The chaos hits a high gear when the local high school is having their prom, and of course it’s the nerds that didn’t attend the dance that have to fight off the zombies and save the day.
Especially in the latter half, Dance of the Dead progresses frenetically, at a bloody pace similar to Night of the Creeps. It even has a similar character to Tom Atkins’ role in that film, this time it’s an aggressive authoritative gym coach portrayed by Mark Oliver (Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland). It just so happens he has been stockpiling his garage with guns, ammo, and bombs, and when he runs into some of his least favorite slackers from school in the disarray they all team up to make an entertaining motley crew. The film is not only at it’s best, most entertaining, and funniest when the action is peaking. There are plenty of quick gags and lines that work really well, as well as entire scenes intended to add comedy to the film. No spoilers, but the scenes involving a garage band in the film is probably one of the best. Outside of Oliver, and perhaps Jared Kusnitz and Greyson Chadwick as the leading couple, most of the other characters are a bit of a lineup of characters we’ve all really seen before. It’s not too detrimental, though, this is a zombie comedy in a high school, so it works well and gives the film opportunities to poke fun at some of those familiar stereotypes. One little thing I always chuckle at, though, is when an actor portraying a high school has a hairline receding more than some of the teachers and principles.
At times, though, things are a little inconsistent in Dance of the Dead. Some of the effects are way less convincing than others. Particularly severed heads, there is just something about them in this movie that looks very poorly done (as always, typing out things like that always makes me feel a little crazy). But, there are plenty of great and enjoyable effects present, and there is a ton of blood throughout in plenty of creative ways and scenes. Another inconsistency that bothered me, but doesn’t really affect the movie, was the movements of the zombies. Sometimes they are the sluggish, non-perceptive zombies most are familiar with, other times they are a little too nimble and can sprint and jump. How a zombie should run is debatable (screw being noncommittal, I hate running zombies), but they definitely should have just picked something and stuck with it. All that being said, most of the stuff that bothered me about the film was minor. Overall, this movie is absolutely tons of fun and I think once the first half hour or so passes it becomes the kind of zombie comedy that I’d absolutely recommend anyone into the genre to check out.