Wow! I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun at the theater.
As a small town readies for the High School Prom, the dead rise from the grave to eat the brains of the living, and the only people who can stop them are the losers who couldn't get dates to the dance.
Jared Kusntiz as Jimmy Dunn (nicknamed: Dun Dun Dumb) a chronic slacker has to lead a makeshift army to rescue his girlfriend (Greyson Chadwick) and save the world. Following him is the Sci-fi club (Led by: Michael V. Mammoliti), the town delinquent (Justin Welborn), a dateless cheerleader (Carissa Capobianco) and Nash Rambler (Blair Redford) and his stoner buddies.
The film moves quickly, introducing the cast with witty dialogue and clever scenes that establish the characters and the central conflicts clearly. The politicking between the students trying to get dates to the prom is hilarious, everyone wants someone “else” and the actors give some great performances. Even though the characters are archetypes the dialogue is sharp and the actors really breathe life into their roles making their schemes and eventual fates feel true even when the tone is hilarious or scary. These kids sound real even as they bicker with each other in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. The adults/teachers are less effective and feel like caricatures. But this doesn’t hinder the fun.
There is a great moment where George, on of the nerds gallantly offers up his stolen football helmet to a recently rescued cheerleader. He tells her how it saved his life, and shows her the teeth marks as she stares up at him in admiration and gratitude. Then a sound off in the distance causes him to meekly change his mind. There isn’t any dialogue to speak of, but the exchange between these two kids speaks volumes.
In another scene, Zombie frogs from the science lab attack a teacher, and the scene is definitely scary as the hapless adult tries to escape, and yet, the scene is so insane that giggles start early and build as the scenes hits its inevitable climax.
The audience I was with was rolling with laughter throughout the whole film.
That’s not to say the film isn’t scary. Although it is relatively light on scares there are some really effective moments that get the pulse racing. There is also gore aplenty but it’s mostly over the top and comical, once the action gets going it doesn’t let up.
Bishop’s direction is fresh and hip. The film is full of homage’s to other genre work (from Romero to Star Wars) but it doesn’t feels derivative, and the film never falls into the trap of winking self indulgence. The action is staged in exciting ways while remaining easy to follow. But the real triumph is how Bishop and the whole crew balance the tone of the film. Scenes slide from “teen comedy” to “splatter” to “pathos” to “horror” and back effortlessly.
Dance of the Dead is being released on DVD this week, just in time for Halloween. And while that’s great, it’s a bit of a shame that more people won’t be able to experience the film in a crowded theater like I did. But regardless how you see the film: Go see it! Its’ packed with icky, gory Zombie killing fun!
The Soundtrack is also available on i-Tunes. Check out the Official Site for more info!