Thursday, October 30, 2008

Movie review - Dance of the Dead (2008)

I wrote about this movie a week or so ago and have waited with undead anticipation for the red Netflix envelope with this movie in it to hit my mailbox. I got it two days ago, popped the film in after Mrs. Zombie and the kids went to bed, cracked open a Blue Moon Pumpkin Brew and watched it. I can say I was not disappointed.

This comedic zombie apocalypse outing hit all the right notes.

The story follows several teens on their prom night. Actually… to be honest, it follows the kids who DON’T go to Prom. A motley group of teen misfits find themselves fighting a zombie infestation and end up being the heroes. Truthfully I’ve got to admit that I love the new ‘geek is chic’ wave that’s just beginning to crest in movies, television, and other pop culture outlets. The geeks and nerds are finally being recognized as something more than the weird kid who used to pick his nose in the back of the band room. From Chuck on NBC to CBS’ Big Bang Theory; from the movies of Kevin Smith to this horror gem – the geek will inherit the earth. And THIS geek loves that.

I won’t delve too much into a plot summary, because it is somewhat formulaic. The main characters of the movie flee zombies, fight zombies, destroy the zombie threat, and find love. Like I said - - it’s formulaic. But formulaic is all right; it just depends on how you tell the story and how you present it. In this case, Director Gregg Bishop does a great job of bringing Joe Ballarini’s script to life and films it in a way that is new, fresh, and funny. Both relatively new to the cinematic world… they made a great independent horror film.

The stellar cast also helped make this a great film. Although there were stereotypes aplenty (and that’s what high schools about, really. Cliques and stereotypes are an essential part of the formative teen years), the actors all carried the weight and made their characters believable. Standouts were Jared Kusnitz (Jimmy) and Greyson Chadwick (Lindsey). Jared plays the emotionally insensitive class clown who turns into a hero and Chadwick plays his girlfriend, a type-A, Christian good girl. I especially liked Chadwick as she was the perfect counterpoint to the usual profane and hard bitches that one sees in zombie genre films. She is a beautiful actress with an open face and doe-like eyes. She’s beautiful, but quirky enough to be believable when we see she loves the geeky class clown. And quirky is a good description for her… she reminds me of Flo from the Progressive commercials in that she’s classically beautiful, but also a bit odd.

Other standout parts can be found in the comic relief (ironic, considering the movie was a horror comedy). The three geeks who turn into heroes with Jimmy are the three sole members of the high school sci-fi club. The jokes there write themselves, folks. And I think that’s what makes this film work. Much like Shaun of the Dead, the film is a comedy that doesn’t take itself seriously, but is also respectful of the zombie genre and its progenitors. And that’s the key to a good, formulaic zombie film – respect the forefathers and the fans will be forgiving.

This movie does that, and then some. For instance, the zombies are of the running variety, and scream, “Brains!” Most zombie purists will turn their nose up at the idea of running zombies, and others will be reminded how much they hate Dan O’Bannon for adding the talking zombie in Return of the Living Dead. For my part, I don’t mind the running zombies (in fact I find it scarier), and love ROTLD because it blatantly disregarded the rules (i.e. - "What do you mean destroying the brain doesn't kill it?!?"). The inclusion of “Brains!” just shows that the filmmakers were fans.

Technically, it was well filmed and the effects were great. And, even when the effects were done for comedic effect (watch the cemetery scenes, and you’ll see what I mean); they were still very well done. Another point that endeared this film to Doctor Zombie was the use of appliances and old school makeup effects. There was CGI, but it was done to good effect (meaning it wasn’t overdone.) The gore was high, as was the comedy. In fact they struck the perfect balance between funny and horror. This is not as easy as one would think. It’s too easy to make it dark and twisted, or go the other way and make it like Airplane, or a Naked Gun movie.

All in all, this was a great flick to pop into the old DVD player on a windy, stormy October night. I highly recommend it and will be purchasing it myself to put on the DVD shelf alongside such zombie favorites as Romero’s oeuvre, and Shaun of the Dead. Yes…it’s THAT good.

So – go buy it, rent it, or steal it. Do what you must, but get your damn dirty paws on a copy of this movie. It will be well worth it.

Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Chomped Brains

1 comment:

Randal Graves said...

Shaun of the Dead was (is) brilliant, and if this is within the ballpark of that, then I'll definitely be adding it to the queue!