It is prom night at Cosa High School and charming slacker Jimmy (Jared Kusnitz) has struck out trying to get a date to the dance, but that proves to be the least of his problems when the dead start rising from their graves. Fortunately, Jimmy is not the only dateless geek on prom night. There is the fetching Lindsey (Greyson Chadwick), the vice-president of the student body, Gwen (Carissa Capobianco), the cheerleader who needs to be saved, Steven (Charlton Derby), the nerd who would like to save her, Nash (Blair Redord), the angry leader of a local band, and the tag-team of Jules (Randy McDowell) and George (Michael V. Mammoliti), who belong to the school's Science Fiction Club. You might ask: Why do the dead starting exploding out of their graves? Well, because this is a zombie movie, which means it might be the town's nuclear reactor or it could just be because the script says that they rise from the dead. So do not ask wherefore art their zombies, or why the only adult authority figure left standing once the zombies run amuck is Coach Keel (Mark Oliver), who has watched way too many action films. Just enjoy one of the best tongue-in-cheek zombie comedies to come down the pike in recent years.
When it comes to zombie movies I still prefer the original "Night of the Living Dead" with the traditional slow moving Old School zombies over the new and impoved frantic flesh eaters of the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, "28 Days Later," et al. More to the point, I liked "Dead and Breakfast" more than "Shaun of the Dead," and I really liked "Shaun of the Dead." Given that particular set of predilections it is probably not surprising that I am willing to round up on "Dance of the Dead," when most people will not (and, yes, I am looking forward to "Zombie Strippers"). There might be a correlation between these two principles simply because it is hard to do a zombie comedy if they are running and you are running. When it is more "The zombies are coming! Walk away! Walk away!" there is way more time to make with the smart aleck remarks (and to go out for pancakes).
"Dance of the Dead" is apparently a movie that was a decade in the making, since the writer and diretor met up in film school at USC, which might explain in part why it works so well, because the script by Joe Ballarini exhibits evidence of fine tuning. The same can be said for the special effects put together by director Gregg Bishop "The Other Side," who manages not to over indulge in the handheld camera work that so often distracts me (or threatens to make my head explode) in contemporary horror films (i.e., "Cloverfield"). But I think a big part of the success for this 2008 release is that this film follows the Franco Zefferelli approach of going out and hiring actual teenagers to play teenagers, which is why so many people make John Hughes references when talking about this film. The young cast, many from Georgia since that is where "Dance of the Dead" was filmed, give it a certain charm (e.g., when Lindsey leads the group in prayer before the ensemble has its requisite "Buffy The Vampire Slayer movement of striding purposely down the hallway with their array of weaponry, a moment that serves as the backdrop for the DVD's menu). That also means this film has the advantage of featuring unfamiliar faces instead of twentysomethings from television shows slumming in splatter flicks.
I have no idea what "Dance of the Dead" is doing in the Ghost House Underground series of horror films that Lionsgate has put out to distract horror fans from the fact that this year's Horrorfest has been delayed until January (they still only have 5 and not 8 films 2 die 4). This is far and away the best of the six of eight films I have seen so far, and if there is something better than "Dance of the Dead" still out there, that would be really sweet, but I doubt it is going to happen. This DVD also sets the standard for special features in this series, with audio commentary by Bishop and Ballarini, a featurette on the making of the film, a special look at "Blood, Guts, and Rock 'n' Roll: Effects and Stunts of Dance of the Dead," a handful of deleted and extended scenes (with optional commentary by the director), Bishop's short film "Voodoo" (also when commentary, because apparently you cannot stop Bishop from commenting, you can only choose not to listen), and the trailer (which contains the film's one flaw: which is that the best line in the trailer is actually two lines cobbled together, in reverse, from the end of the film).