My roommate really wanted me to see this movie. It's one of his favourites. I was skeptical. Though Brad and I share a lot of movies in common, he can't always be trusted to come up with a winner. Also, I still harbour a prejudice toward direct-to-video. Stupid, I know, and I'm working on it. The movie's rather generic plot didn't help matters, either.
It goes like this: Zombies rise from the grave as a result of radioactive waste being dumped by the nuclear power plant nearby. The zombies' rising coincides with prom night and the survivors must band together Breakfast Club style in order to defeat the undead.
Not really enough to get me excited, but I've seen worse movies with better plots. And as it turned out, this film was really good. Great, in fact. Brad totally came through. Dance of the Dead is on par, in my opinion, with Shawn of the Dead. It's funny, it's gross, it mixes heart-warmth and heartbreak, and, most importantly it doesn't try to be anything more than what it is.
In the beginning, most zombie movies were allegories about the cold war or colonialism or society's various ills. Modern zombie films and remakes of older classics have tried to either update the commentary or redefine/recast zombies as victims. The zombies in Dance of the Dead, however, are exactly what they appear to be--reanimated corpses that feed on the living. Okay, yes, they were reanimated by nuclear waste, but the film is not about nuclear power or environmentalism. It's about survival. Possibly it's about surviving high school. And yeah, I know Shawn of the Dead was about how our repetitive lifestyles are slowly draining away all our creative and independent thought, and that I just totally contradicted myself, but the message is secondary to story itself.
And the story in Dance of the Dead is simple, entertaining, and well told. In my post about Killer Pad, I talked a bit about horror and comedy and the difficulties that can arise when melding the two. Where Killer Pad was ridiculous, skewing towards stupid, Dance of the Dead is legitimately funny. The movie and the characters take themselves seriously enough that the humour, when it comes, is both unexpected and welcome.