Movies From the Black Lagoon: Dance of the Dead
Movies From the Black Lagoon
Dance of the Dead - 2008, Rated R
"Dawn of the Dead" meets "Can't Hardly Wait" in this light hearted zombie romp that finds a diverse band of teenagers being forced to deal with an undead invasion on prom night.
The film begins by introducing the main players as they navigate their way through the last day of school. Jimmy is the class clown/slacker and sees his latest trip to detention cost him his prom date, Lindsey.
Turns out she is fed up with his lack of ambition and she opts to go with the class president, who's a bit of a boor but at least his ride smells of vanilla bean. Meanwhile the head of the Sci-Fi club, Stephen, dares to ask out the cheerleader, Gwen, that he has eyed for four years but she's more interested in a Johnny Depp wannabe who has formed his own punk band. Then there's class thug Kyle. The Sci-Fi club lives in fear of this dude who is responsible for more broken bones than the skateboard.
Prom turns out to be a bust for these kids anyway as none of them make it to the start of the Hawaiian themed event what with zombies pop up all over town. Little time is wasted on this phenomenon, which is attributed to the three power plants, which nest in the neighborhood and fills the sewers with toxic sludge. The Sci-Fi club meets the challenge first when they stumble upon the corpses while performing an "X-Files" type investigation of strange goings on at the local cemetery. They high tail it for the nearest structure and are soon joined by the other features characters. Their choice of sanctuary, however, leaves a lot to be desired as it turns out to be a funeral home. Kyle saves the day by channeling his violent tendencies towards the undead which also endears him to his former victims from the Sci-Fi club. Pretty soon they're all chummy but this is a horror movie too so losing Kyle to the zombies is inevitable though his example does toughen up the nerd brigade.
Meanwhile the punk band finds out that they can hold back the corpses by churning out some three-chord rock music, which makes the zombies docile. The kids from the funeral home eventually escape thanks to some fancy footwork, and a generous amount of cartwheels, by Gwen who is able steal the company hearse. Much to Stephen's chagrin they meet up with the Punk band and their Depp-like lead singer once again enthralls Gwen. Their get together is cut short when they realize that the zombies have crashed the prom. They decide to head that way and rescue any survivors before realizing the teen dream of having a great excuse to blow up their school. It's a fairly well choreographed finale that sees them have to brave the dance floor to secure a detonator that happens to land on the concession table which affords the band a chance to play their premier and farewell concert all at the same time.
This is all entertaining thanks to a great script which pokes fun at adolescent angst while celebrating the more positive aspects of teen rebellion. The characters get off some great lines such as Gwen who reacts to the approaching prom slaughter by moaning; "I'm going to need years of therapy after this." The DVD also manages to provide some decent extras such as a "Youtube" video of Kyle inflicting all manner of pain upon his friends, siblings, and self. There's also plenty of gore here for the die-hard zombie fans as well as a keen sense of how kids actually talk. There's obviously more love invested in these characters and they all end up in a better place - that means that Stephen does get to consummate his love for Gwen though both are without a pulse when the big moment comes. There's also some good comedic work here by the adults, which includes a sharp turn by Mark Oliver as a phys-ed teacher with issues, and a lot of firepower stored in his garage, as well as a poetic justice moment that finds a sadistic biology teacher turned into a zombie by a frog specimen. Fun stuff that will not linger in your long-term memory but at least it won't grow hair on your palms either.
Best Line: "Mam, I'm not going to be able to help you if you don't stop biting at me like that."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: email@example.com.