Dance of the Dead (2008)
By: James Gillett on April 17, 2009  | 
DVD
Lionsgate (Australia) Region 4, NTSC. 1:85:1 (16:9 Enhanced). English DD 5.1. English, Spanish Subtitles. 87 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Gregg Bishop
Starring: Lucas Till, Jared Kusnitz, Carissa Capobianco
Screenplay: Joe Ballarini
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Horror has always been my favourite genre though admittedly, I've never really been a great fan of the horror comedy. Other than preferring my horror deadly serious it's rare to see one that finds a balance in which both the horror is effective and the comedy works. There are notable exceptions; Films like the Evil Dead Trilogy, Peter Jackson's early horror efforts, along with the likes of Re-animator and Return of the Living Dead succeed in combining both genres into a satisfying package.

But does this film manage to bring the two together?

In Dance of the Dead, a group of geeks led by misfit Jimmy take matters into their own hands when a nuclear power plant causes the dead to rise and threaten their high school prom.

Simple enough setup, and thankfully it's handled well. Wisely the film takes the time to amusingly introduce the characters during a regular day. It proves to be solid entertainment even before the zombies arrive. This is in no small way due to solid casting. Jared Kusnitz is just right as Jimmy, the likeable class clown who thinks life's a joke before he watches his classmates losing their's. Another standout is Justin Welborn as the punk bully Kyle, who may or may not be as anti-social as he acts. The likeable characters draw you in and have you hoping they survive (a real rarity). Kudos to writer Joe Ballarini for keeping them from straying too far into cliché. 

If you were wondering if Dance deliverers the goods in the horror department the short answer is yes. Blood and gore abound, driven by some decent moments of suspense. Director Gregg Bishop knows that some of the horror needs to be handled with seriousness before giving us the next gag and it pays off. He really struck the right tone with this film and managed to maintain it. Dance of the Dead exhibits a sense of effortless fun while still delivering scares. The violence, while occasionally graphic, is done with a dark sense of humour. While it does lessen the impact, the film aims to entertain rather than shock, so it's completely fitting and lends itself to some great moments.

Dance of the Dead is fairly ambitious. The independent nature of the film means it budget didn't always match its ideas. This isn't a major problem for the most part because it's directed so creatively. The scene where seemingly hundreds of the dead rise from a graveyard is a standout. It's only in the occasional effects shot that you may wish they had a larger budget but really, it's hardly a major issue; some viewers may even find it endearing.

In the end it may be a little more comedy than horror but ultimately it succeeds at both. Hopefully we see more independent horror of this calibre. Zombie fans are in for a treat.
Video
The film is presented in an ananmophpic 1:85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is relatively clean in brightly lit scenes but did display some noise during the darker night sections. Mostly solid. It should be noted that even though it's a region 4 disc the transfer is NTSC.
Audio
The 5.1 mix does the job quite nicely. Sound is clear and balanced.
Extra Features
The extra's here are great. First off we have an entertaining 23 minute Making Of. Also included is a 5 minute doco on the effects that plays a little like one of Rodriguez's 10 minute film school featurettes, an audio commentary by director Gregg Bishop and writer Joe Ballarini, and 9 deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary. Particularly good is director Gregg Bishop's short film Voodoo that pits a young suitor (doing his best Bruce Campbell impression) against a nasty little girl who enjoys tormenting her mother's dates.

You'll also find a trailer for Dance of the Dead and other trailers from Lionsgate.
The Verdict
Dance of the Dead just plain works. It's a pleasant surprise to find a horror/comedy that's funny, scary and gory as hell. It may not be flawless but ultimately it succeeds in exactly what it sets out to do: deliver a strong, satisfying horror/comedy experience. Coupled with an entertaining set of extras, Dance of the Dead comes highly recommended.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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