Dance Of The Dead (2008)

As an avid zombie movie fan, I love the classics and despite a couple of somewhat disappointing recent additions to his ‘Dead’ franchise, Romero is still King in my book. On occasion though, I prefer a zombie movie with less of a political message and a few more laughs; that’s where Dance Of The Dead comes in.

The premise couldn’t be simpler; an assortment of teenagers from different social groups have to band together on the night of the High School Prom when the undead literally burst from their graves and start biting chunks out of the locals.

The cast is made of up of virtual unknowns but they all pull their weight and deliver their lines without ever coming across as amateurish. The characters are all well written and well-rounded, from the teachers to the students to the surly gravedigger who knows more than he’s letting on. Ballarini steers clear of stereotypes for the most part, although he walks a fine line with some of the geeks but most of them are so endearingly quirky that it’d be cruel to nitpick.

The effects vary from adequate to first-rate but the production values appear much greater than they actually were and as such the team behind the film deserve to be commended for making their budget stretch so far.

Most of the direction, from fledgling director Gregg Bishop, is pretty standard stuff but there are a few shots that show serious promise and are real stand-out stuff. It certainly looks like he and Ballarini, who devised the plot together over a decade ago, poured their hearts and souls into the making of Dance Of The Dead and for the most part, it really pays off. This is no vanity project, this is a film made by two men who love what they do and wanted to make a quality film and I think that really shines through in every frame. There are more references and homages to other horror movies than I can count on both hands but instead of feeling repetitive or imitative, their presence feels like it’s there to honour the films they love and the filmmakers they respect.

Even the music is good. There are covers of Fleetwood Mac and Pat Benatar songs that provide backing to their respective scenes incredibly well but also seem to be a nod to the more old school zombie aficionado’s amongst the audience. There’s even a scene involving zombie’s being staved off through the medium of live rock music which is corny but inspired.

Besides the High School setting, there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about this film but regardless, it’s 95 minutes of pure cinematic joy and has a real re-watchability about it; after the credits rolled, I could easily have watched it all over again without pause.

It has no agenda, it has no clear message but it’s a shed-load of fun and sometimes that’s all you need.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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