DANCE OF THE DEAD will charm the zombie hell out of you. That’s a one sentence, back-of-the-box review if I’ve ever seen one. And for the record, I have.
See it, enjoy it. ‘Tis a rather linear experiment, really. If you do step one, you’ll arrive at step two. This I promise to you.
Written and directed by quantities unknown (Joe Ballarini and Gregg Bishop, respectively), this indie low budget, high talent do gooder is a bulk wholesaler of zombie charm. If DANCE OF THE DEAD raises no smile on your withered, leathered face, you’ve no soul left to betwixt; in which case I would normally assume you are, in fact, me. As it turns out I do have a soul and that soul still loves high schoolers fighting zombies.
The dead have reanimated in a small town and it is up to a mix of the local high school population to stop the brain eating infection before the cannibalistic men and women reach the buffet that is prom. Yet this is not a standard kids who want to get into the movies production. Just watch the dead burst from their coffins in the coolest grave raising I’ve seen in a long while. You’ll know instantly that DANCE is far more professional, far more ambitious than the Straight-to-DVD fate and no-name actors imply.
The most rudimentary way to sum it would be to say DANCE OF THE DEAD is what would happen if “DEGRASSI” had a blood filled Halloween episode. Well, I’ve never actually seen more than two minutes of that Canadian riff on “SAVED BY THE BELL” meets “FREAKS AND GEEKS” (yes, I recognize the anachronism here), but I’m going to take that stance and run with it. If you’ve seen even two minutes of that show, I think you’ll understand. Ballarini’s script doesn’t have much as far as new dynamics go…the bully, the band of nerds he used to beat up and the girls the nerds lust after comprise the garden tool wielding group. The acting is amateur in the most heartfelt way, smacking of jitters and not enough takes, but that doesn’t matter because the material is great. The characters, static they may be, are believable, but more importantly their adventure through the night is a well plotted, organ munching trip.
I don’t know anything about the man, but I wager that Gregg Bishop is largely responsible for the successful execution of said material. In less ambitious hands, Ballarini’s script would have been played only for the teen chuckles or only for the gore gags. Not Bishop, though. He juggles multiple characters, multiple threads and multiple head wounds with the ease of someone whose been churning feature films year in, year out. And that graveyard uprising! Brilliant!
I hate to always play Debbie Downer (just kidding, I love doing it), but I’m not convinced DANCE OF THE DEAD has “cult classic written all over it” as a poster quoted AICN review seems to stake. Sure, you may own the DVD and your group of friends will love it. You’ll get together and drink to its shenanigans and zombie awesomeness, but is it cult yet alone even cult classic? I don’t think so. Then again, the things I think deserve that status never seem to get it, so I could be way off base here. Funny? Check. Gory? Check. Smart? Check. Impressive? Check times two with a big ass plus sign next to it. But cult classic? I suppose time will tell.
Standing in the grand scheme of things aside, DANCE OF THE DEAD is an admirable little film you’ll wish you and your friends would have made. It is the underdog cooking not with the freshest ingredients, but with the most honest of intentions. Because of that indomitable charm, I find it hard to fault the production at all.
Just see it. You’ll understand exactly what I mean. You’ll have laughs, enjoy the zombie action and tell a friend or two about. That’s all I should ask for these days.
Tags: Dance of the Dead