October Horrorshow: Dance of the Dead

It’s October, which means it’s time for the October Horrorshow, when Missile Test devotes the entire month to watching and reviewing horror films. All are welcome: the good, the bad, and the putrid. Today’s review is of the zombie comedy Dance of the Dead, written by Joe Ballarini and directed by Gregg Bishop, a pair of relative unknowns in the movie world. The only people even more anonymous than those who made Dance of the Dead are the actors and actresses who starred in it. But if there were such a thing as a little movie that could, Dance of the Dead up and did.

There’s no shame in horror films. There’s no disgrace or ignominy in blood-spattered cinema being financed with an overdrawn checking account or a maxed-out credit card. Embarrassment is even cast aside when extracting desperately needed funds from na├»ve church groups. Just ask Ed Wood. The point is, low-budget horror is the lifeblood of the entire genre, encompassing not only the early works of its most legendary auteurs, but also the vast majority of the horror catalogue.

Dance of the Dead is hardly a poverty-stricken film, but it very much represents the low end of producorial procurements. Thankfully, Bishop proved well suited to the task, and made a shitty movie that is worth watching.

The main cast consists of the typical teens one would find in any teen film. This could have made Dance of the Dead nothing less than excruciating to watch for anyone under the age of twenty, but Ballarini’s script is snarky enough to keep things from getting vapid. The cast does its part in keeping the atmosphere light. Which is good, because these folks aren’t going to be accepting any Oscars anytime soon. It would be horrible if they had to wander through this film oppressed by a heavy and foreboding atmosphere. So much cheap horror has been ruined by expecting their casts to play things straight. All of the adults in the film are mere caricature, fodder for the younger cast members, telling a viewer all they need to know about the target audience, but that can be ignored.

It’s prom night for the millennials. They’re almost grown up and there’s just one final bash before it’s off to college. Only their town, including a graveyard, are right next to a massive nuclear power plant. Toxic waste is the culprit in this zombie flick. Once again, the undead are allegory for the ignoble way in which we treat our environment. When will we learn? From this starting point, the plot unfolds of its own free will.

Zombies come from everywhere. Some literally burst forth from their graves and break into sprints. There’s loads of cartoonish gore and cheap, but effective, special effects. CGI is also kept to a respectable minimum, serving the film and not acting as a crutch.

The characters run from point A to point B, smashing heads and being winnowed by the zombies the entire way, leading to the film’s climax at the aforementioned prom.

Any more detail is not needed. Dance of the Dead is a fun and entertaining film. I was surprised at its quality, having come to expect almost nothing out of cheap horror films. It is not good enough to sneak its way past the Shitty Movie Sundays label, but still, it’s better than Alien: Resurrection.