There are a few important dances in one’s life, but there is only one dance that really marks the turn of adolescence and that is the high school prom. Fruity punch, paper streamers, and the king and queen of the school round out senior year in momentarily epic hubris shared by all students. What could ruin such a perfect evening? 2008’s dark zombie comedy, Dance Of The Dead adds a pesky variable to the perfect prom equation with a horde of deadly walkers risen from the grave. While there are hundreds of zombie flicks out there to consume, this one is a promposal worth saying yes to. Dance Of The Dead is a cool hour and a half written by Joe Ballarini (Father vs. Son) with a sharp hand and eye for comedic carnage. Directed by Gregg Bishop (Siren), this independent zom-com found success upon its release thanks to its acclaimed humor, gore, and its laid back originality in an effort to refresh a subgenre that often winds up dead and buried time and time again.
“Dance Of The Dead ensures prom night is one to remember […] when it adds an infestation of flesh eating zombies to the mix.”
Dance Of The Dead is a likable zombie treatment starring Jared Kusnitz (The Secret Life Of The American Teenager), Greyson Chadwick (Doom Patrol), Chandler Darby (ZombieCON), Carissa Capobianco (The Watch), Randy McDowell (I Can Only Imagine), Michael Mammoliti (Fury), Mark Lynch (The Reaping), Justin Welborn (The Final Destination), Mark Oliver (We Are Marshall) , Blair Redford (The Gifted), and Lucas Till (X-Men: Days Of Future Past). The cast of teenage misfits and adult loners band together when their high school prom is under attack from undead, flesh-eating zombies reanimated from the grounds of the town’s cemetery. A nuclear power plant acts as a mysterious generator in the background as the group moves to save their peers from hungry corpses at the big dance. It is a race to rescue and a struggle for safety as the school outcasts become heroes in a good-natured punk fest doused in blood. Also, should it make any difference, they’re up against the fast type of zombies.
You Will Remember Tonight
Prom is meant to be a celebration of a high school’s graduating class moving forward toward their promising future endeavors, but it is also a special moment meant to embrace the memories shared by students throughout their academic career. On the other hand, it is a notorious moment in time that adolescents use to cut loose, forget their inhibitions, and commemorate their final formidable schooling experiences by going all out. Dance Of The Dead ensures prom night is one to remember for a group of local teenagers when it adds an infestation of flesh eating zombies to the mix. With a setting already breeding a combination of drastic emotions and activities, a typical high school prom makes for a delicious feeding pool and an entertaining base for horrific amusement.
“Cosa High School’s grounds are relatable, the set pieces are authentic, and every bit will feel congenial to any viewer who attended public school.”
A Hawaiian Hula prom theme might be as cheesy and mediocre as they come, but Dance Of The Dead sinks vicious teeth into its space with candor. The fun atmosphere sets the scene with the high school dramatics and antics, providing multiple outlets for subplots to unfold. Like any good zombie flick, Dance Of The Dead has multiple checkpoints that lead up to the big dance providing a lot of movement that keeps the narrative moving at full speed. The local school is a choice institution that has a familiar feel and makes for fluid challenges and solutions. Cosa High School’s grounds are relatable, the set pieces are authentic, and every bit will feel congenial to any viewer who attended public school. Bishop’s zombie prom story boasts a genuine environment without the jarring content that is sometimes presented in modern day adolescent horror. Like high school and prom alike, Dance Of The Dead is gross, but charming. Welcome to Paradise.
Punk Ass Kids
It’s hard not to think of archetypal roles when venturing into a horror film composed of mostly high school students. Dance Of The Dead smartly categorizes its ensemble of players, but refrains from generalizing through stereotypes. Cosa High School’s characters range from punk rock interest to nerd culture, all diverse and originally complex. Dance Of The Dead is a youthful expression in undead academics. There is no true “jock” or “popular girl” or “weird kid” in this narrative, but rather the nuanced groupings form organically. A teacher versus student mentality adds a distinct layer of rebellious attitude. Tired authority meets wayward juvenility in both appealing humor and meaning. Touching on unexpected camaraderie and surprising cases of redemption, Bishop’s flesh-eating thrill ride dances with every kind of adult and student standing alone in the school gymnasium.
“There is no true “jock” or “popular girl” or “weird kid” in this narrative, but rather the nuanced groupings form organically.”
Balancing brutal zombie carnage with crafty charisma, Dance Of The Dead takes notes from films like Shaun Of The Dead and Black Sheep to round out a faithful black comedy. Witty one-liner dialogue and old school style escapades allows for a humorous chemistry. As this early millennium film features some characters that are rough around the edges, a note has to be made that there is a liberal use of some derogatory slurs. There are only a handful of them, but they are there unfortunately. Remarkably, it’s a reminder that 2008 was a different time. As detestable as some characters are, viewers may find themselves rooting for the underdog and feeling sympathy for the enemy. Dance Of The Dead does not exactly invent a new kind of zombie horror formula, but it does rock gruesome chemistry and delinquent delight.
Stay On The Path
Would you say yes to an evening double-header of Goosebumps and Trick Or Treat? That’s what you get with Bishop’s Dance Of The Dead. It is mild enough to please any beginner horror audience and sure to satisfy any edge longtime genre fans crave. Dance Of The Dead sports an easygoing tone and alternative flavor. Quick shots and zooming tracks vary up the visuals, while sublime lighting and coloring creates youthful imagery. The special effects are decent as Dance Of The Dead gears toward mostly practical over digital enhancements, which works to its independent advantage. The blood and gore is plenty without hitting levels of gratuity or excessive overcompensation. Certain elements aim to stay on the path of safety and control, but other factors deviate from the group in lively punk fashion. Where Dance Of The Dead should be predictable, it’s surprising.
Exercising a reflection on adolescent maturity, Dance Of The Dead takes on a coming-of-age approach. Protagonist Jimmy Dunn is caught between becoming an adult and thinking everything is a joke. His immaturity and lack of agency contributes to a grand development that turns him into a hero along with the other misfits that find themselves along the way. When the jokes stop and things take a serious turn, Jimmy finds his inner ability to man up and lead his way through a zombie apocalypse. Situations will tear at the viewer’s heartstrings with unforeseen depth and thought. Dance Of The Dead is a wicked romp through an undead takeover that travels down a recognizable path, but throws in vibrating excitement and embraces the fun of its dark comedy.
“Would you say yes to an evening double-header of Goosebumps and Trick Or Treat? That’s what you get with Bishop’s Dance Of The Dead.”
Picking the perfect prom date is a tough decision, but if you’re looking for brains, guts, and heart, Dance Of The Dead is the perfect mate. High school horror proves to be a practical space for the walking dead and a variety of relatable characters. In the grand tradition of prom rights of passage, you’ll find yourself indulging in the film’s feel-good vibe, your feelings will be slightly torn to pieces, and you’ll wonder what to do next as the sun comes up when the party is finally over. Dance Of The Dead is currently streaming on Tubi. Take a bite out of it before it takes a bite out of you.
Are you a fan of Dance Of The Dead? What do you think about this prom themed zombie comedy? Does Dance Of The Dead hold up to contemporary zombie horror? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!