Jared Kusnitz - Jimmy
Greyson Chadwick - Lindsey
Chandler Darby - Steven
Carissa Capobianco - Gwen
Randy McDowell - Jules
Blair Redford - Nash Rambler
Mark Oliver - Coach Keel
Justin Welborn - Kyle Grubin
James Jarrett - Gravedigger
Genre - Horror/Zombies/Teens
Running Time - 87 Minutes
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4
PLOT - Due to some power plant nearby, the dead [once again] has risen from the grave and decided that they're hungry for flesh. If this was my town, it would probably liven up the joint. But since it's not, it's pretty bad timing. Why? Because it's the night of Junior Prom and who wants to get blood on their tuxedoes? They're rentals, people!! Anyway, some of the kids end up not going or leaving the prom for different reasons, not realizing that the dead have invited themselves to the dance to feast on some teenage flesh. Because of this, the only chance the town has are those who didn't go to Prom which include a slacker, a cheerleader, a class president, a bunch of geeks from a Sci-Fi club, and a gun-wielding bully. No this isn't THE BREAKFAST CLUB! This is the DANCE OF THE DEAD!
STORY - DANCE OF THE DEAD, written by Joe Ballarini, is pretty much a teenage hybrid of two zombie comedy classics, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Unfortunately, the story nor the laughs are as powerful in this film as they are in the ones that inspired it. Still, DANCE OF THE DEAD is an entertaining zombie flick that pretty much uses every cliche and rule from the Official Zombie Handbook. We have flesh eating zombies that are faster than your usual George A. Romero snail-like zombies. We have misfits who argue alot about the situation until realizing they must work together and make sacrifices in order to survive. It's all here but done in a John Hughes' 80's teen flick sort of way. The story is never original nor it tries to be. It's pretty simple and moves smoothly from one act to another. The characters are fleshed out, which is a plus because they're very fun to watch as their personalities mesh together or clash against each other. The dialogue is funny at times and the teens actually talk like teenagers, which is refreshing. Some things, like why punk music stops the zombies from killing others, and jokes that don't work hurt the film a bit. But it's a new twist on an old story and it's nice to see Ballarini using his inspirations to create new angles on classic zombie flicks.
DIRECTION - Gregg Bishop uses what he's seen from films like RETURN FROM THE LIVING DEAD, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, NIGHT OF THE COMET, and CEMETARY MAN to his advantage, creating an energenic zombie flick that's fun to watch. For a low-budget flick, it looks anything but, as gore is never spared and the CGI is used in a way that it doesn't look out of place with the "realism" of the rest of the film. The pacing is dead-on and the editing is great. I loved the cinematography as well. Just a really nice looking flick that makes me want to see what else Bishop has in store.
VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - Every zombie flick needs violence, so you won't be disappointed with DANCE OF THE DEAD. Limbs get torn. Heads go flying across the screen. There's an explosion. We have a gym teacher who kicks zombie ass. Blood splatters pretty frequently. There are a lot of chasing and fighting sequences. The gore will never disgust you but it'll never bore you either.
As for sex, the most you'll get is a few make out scenes including one between a couple of zombies in love. Those who like to jerk off to zombie flicks will have to find something else to get their rocks off to.
As for the language, we get a few cuss words here and there but nothing you wouldn't hear out of a PG-13 flick. Nothing major.
ACTING - This is the one department where the film is perfect. It's nice to see actors who are teenagers or close enough to look like teenagers playing these characters. Jared Kusnitz, who was in OTIS, does real well as the lead teen. Instead of playing Jimmy as a loser, he plays him as a likeable underachiever instead, which is good. Justin Welborn, from THE SIGNAL, plays the bully who enjoys weapons and looks to be having fun doing it. Greyson Chadwick as Lindsey was quite a cutie and a smart character as well. Her and Kusnitz had great chemistry. But my favorite was Mark Oliver as Coach Keel, who kicked ass with his over-the-top antics and his brash one-liners. This dude was awesome and he cracked me up. All the actors here, including the zombies, were pretty cool. Great cast.
MUSIC - You get your usual zombie score. Plus you get the punk band playing some songs for the zombies, including a cover of Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night". It sounds like an 80s flick. It feels like an 80s flick. Me likey.
THE FINAL HOWL
DANCE OF THE DEAD is a good zombie flick that will please anyone who loves their films starring the undead. If you're looking for a great zombie comedy, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and/or SHAUN OF THE DEAD is the way to go. But if you've seen those and are looking for something else, DANCE OF THE DEAD would probably be your next bet. First pigs blood and now zombies? Geez, they weren't kidding when they said Prom was a night to remember! Check this flick out.