Okay, I admit freely that you've been just a little bit hoaxed, kids. I deliberately set this up so that I would cover this one, the last in the lineup of eight films that comprised the Ghost House Underground series, last. That's right--from the beginning you've been hearing about the Ghost House Underground series in what I had hoped would be from worst to best based on synopses and trailers and such.
Sadly, this didn't work out near as well as I'd wanted it to--Dark Floors ring a bell for anyone?--but in retrospect, I got pretty close. It seems like I've gotten down to the nitty gritty here in Dance of the Dead, the one film I had the most hope for in the entire franchise.
And on the surface, it looked like I'd made the right choice. How could I go wrong, with a horror-comedy hybrid about a prom night attacked by zombies? How could I go wrong in a movie that features lines like "We're the sci-fi club. We're here to rescue you."? How could I go wrong with a movie that might more appropriately have been titled Prom of the Dead?
How, I ask you? How??
Considering how often I laughed during the first ten minutes, I thought it wouldn't be possible to hate this movie.
Considering how many clichés they trotted out--after I saw the biology teacher lay into some kid, I just KNEW that poor dumb bastard was going to get torn open by the end--I thought this was going to be a great ride.
And indeed, this was a TRIUMPH. The one great and shining light in the Ghost House Underground series is "Dance of the Dead". This is the high point of an otherwise lackluster crapfest with only a few half-decent movies to separate it from being a total waste of time and effort.
With a cemetery groundskeeper that makes the guy from Dellamorte Dellamore look like a high-strung candy ass, fantastic lines throughout, a liberal soupcon of comedy and plenty of good scares, Dance of the Dead makes the entirety of the Ghost House Underground series look like a sick old woman.
Even better is that they started the action off fairly early. Many zombie movies will take up to an hour to build to the zombie apocalypse part of the program, but not Dance of the Dead. No sir, we've got a full-blown zombie apocalypse within the first twenty minutes. And for a film with a nearly ninety minute runtime, that means nigh-on seventy minutes of sweet zombie ass-kicking action. Featuring great moves like "severed arm down the throat" and plenty of zombie backyard wrestling.
You can't beat that with a spiked baseball bat.
Oh, there are problems, sure enough. They've halfassed the Romero standard a bit here--zombies should NOT be coordinated enough to drive a pizza van, and there's a little bit of running involved, something that's irked me for some time, not to mention post-Romero mutterings of "brains"--but this is an admittedly minor gripe and certainly should not be permitted to get in the way of enjoying this sweet nugget of zombie joy.
Even better will be the bizarre discovery just before the halfway mark. I will not spoiler it for you but it's utterly unlike anything I can previously recall. Seriously. Like NOTHING else before it.
I actually reached a point writing this where I realized that talking about it further would just be repetition. This is a truly excellent movie, and makes me genuinely happy that I sat through five pieces of crap and two halfway decent titles so that I could get THIS wonder in my DVD player. If you take nothing else away, take this--THIS. IS. AWESOME.
The ending...well...the ending is as good as the rest of the movie, frankly. As good as the previous parts were, I was half expecting the ending to be crap just to balance out the universe. But no...no indeed. The ending was full of laughs and loss and explosions. It was a thing of beauty.
The special features include audio options, director and writer commentary, English and Spanish subtitles, a making-of featurette, a behind the scenes featurette, an effects and stunts featurette, a short film called "Voodoo", and trailers for Dance of the Dead, Saw V, Punisher: War Zone, Trackman, No Man's Land: Rise of the Reeker, Dark Floors, Brotherhood of Blood, The Substitute, Last House in the Woods, and Room 205.
All in all, I've already said it, folks. This is an absolute triumph. Dance of the Dead is the undisputable very best the Ghost House Underground series has to offer, and the lone chunk of possibility that, if they do this again next year, we might just get another one.