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Quint loves up on midnight zombie flick DANCE OF THE DEAD at SXSW!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Yay, a really good midnight movie has played at SXSW! I’ve actually heard some good things about a few of the midnights playing, like SHUTTLE, but DANCE OF THE DEAD is the first one I saw that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ll pepper in some shots I took of the Q&A through-out the review. DANCE OF THE DEAD is not an original film. Not at all. In fact there are shots lifted from (or homaging if you like that term better) NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, FROM DUSK ‘TILL DAWN and a ton of other genre highlights. Hell, the poster screams SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

The story is simple: Zombies take over a town on prom night. The kids react. Guts fly everywhere. What this movie does extremely well, though, is strike that really difficult balance of horror, action and comedy. This film is definitely in the style of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and that’s why I loved it. There's an inventiveness to it that's appealing as well... it's not just thrown together, it's actually crafted. Care and thought towards the actual filmmaking went into the movie, which is more than I can say for 80% of the low budget horror I see at fests or on screeners. It’s goofy, the splatter is ridiculous, the characters are all shades of cartoony, but there’s still a sense of seriousness. It’s hard to explain… I don’t know if any of you saw a movie called DEAD & BREAKFAST… I didn’t care much for that movie, but I recognize the fun elements of it. That’s a film that was trying really, really hard to be fun and it showed. DANCE OF THE DEAD is just effortlessly fun. Let me go over the opening scene and some of the characters to give you folks an inkling of what this film is. The flick opens with a gravedigger at a cemetery. He’s digging a fresh one when he hears a moaning. He pops out of the grave and looks around. A nice vase full of flowers resting at the foot of a tombstone falls over. The gravedigger gets down on his knees, leaning a little too close to the fresh grass of the grave as he resets the flowers. They fall over again and he hears the moaning again, but it’s coming from beneath him. He puts his ear to the ground, hears it again… after a beat he raises up a little just in time for a hand to reach out and grab him. He grabs for his pair of garden shears and lobs the hand off. The arm jerks back into the ground and the hand stands up, like Thing in Addams Family, and runs at him. He grabs it and walks it over to his wheelbarrow and tosses it in. It lands on top of a dozen limbs moving around… Arms, legs, a head. We pan up and see a series of Nuclear power plants spilling pollution into the air and then we dive into our story. This film comes from the ever growing Atlanta film community, which brought us the awesome SIGNAL. In fact, one of the stars of THE SIGNAL, Justin Welborn (far right in the pic below), shows up in the movie as the “much too old to still be at school delinquent badass” character. All the rest of the kids are between 18 and 20, as close to High School age as they could get away with, with the exception of Wilborn. But it fits his character.

And as much fun as he looks to have had in THE SIGNAL, it looks like he had even more fun here, really going whole hog. The kids are all smartly written… not exactly retreads, but not exactly spoofing teen movies either. They exist in a kind of middle-ground of familiarity. The adults all written to be fucking crazy. The gravedigger is a loon, the principal is a douche, the science teacher is crazy and the hardass gym teacher turns out to be a badass survivalist type that relishes the opportunity to use his automatic weapons, army hand-to-hand fighting techniques and C4 explosives. The kids are all fun, with Welborn being a big audience favorite. The lead, young Jared Kusnitz (left below), also had a major role in OTIS which I didn’t like nearly as much. He was good in OTIS but had very little to do. In this one he’s naturally likable and makes for a good unlikely hero.

There is spine-ripping, zombie make-outs (in what I’ll assume is a nod to Peter Jackson’s BRAINDEAD), zombie frogs, undead flying out of their graves in a puff of dirt and the power of rock being used to quell the zombie hordes. This is an indie flick and the budget does show through a little at times, but I was really impressed with it. It’s pretty epic for a small movie and the directing by Gregg Bishop (THE OTHER SIDE) is inventive and smart.

It is currently looking for a distributor, but I don’t think they’ll have much trouble finding one. I just hope whoever picks it up treats the movie right. With a well-planned supportive release, this one has cult classic written all over it. The Q&A after the movie was rowdy, with what seemed like the entire cast and crew taking the stage. Seriously, check out this pic:

I’ll keep my ear to the ground on this one. It’s a must see for fans of horror, especially outlandish low budget craziness. -Quint quint@aintitcool.com



Readers Talkback
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  • March 10, 2008, 4:23 a.m. CST

    As much as I would like to see this ...

    by Shan

    ... by the time it gets to Australia ...

  • March 10, 2008, 4:25 a.m. CST

    UN-DEADISH THING of the dead

    by InspectorDoppler

    god bless 'em for doing their thing, I'm sure it's sincere and fun, but isn't the "incongruous word of the dead" thing getting a little old?

  • March 10, 2008, 5:34 a.m. CST

    Sounds like fun

    by FILMFUNK

    and well done for not mentionong Diary of The Dead which must have been tough! this sounds like it gets it right where Diary got so much wrong, plus I'm a big fan of Return of The Living Dead so I hope this gets out.

  • March 10, 2008, 8:10 a.m. CST

    I worked on this!!

    by kroenen2688

    I live in Atlanta and worked with the Toby Sells Creature FX Studio which the Make-up FX. I'm super happy to hear it screened well, from what I've heard its the "Breakfast Club" of Zombie movies. The whole crew and cast were awesome and it was a ton of fun to work on.

  • March 10, 2008, 8:11 a.m. CST

    Back to Back, Belly to Belly...

    by Smerdyakov

    at the Zombie Jamboree (where else)?

  • March 10, 2008, 9:26 a.m. CST

    I hate zombie flicks that don't take zombies seriously...

    by GrandMuffTarkin

    Because zombies are, you know, a serious matter. Truly.

  • March 10, 2008, 9:57 a.m. CST

    Hmmm

    by DonnieDorko

    A Zombie-flick without a nude Milla Jovovich? I don't get it..

  • March 10, 2008, 10:14 a.m. CST

    Justin Welborn will be in Final Destination 4

    by islander

    I hope it is shown at the Atlanta Film Festival this year. I do not want to wait until October to see it. I met Justin Welborn at The Signal Atlanta premiere party. He is realy cool guy. And he will be in Final Destination 4, it will start shooting in April.

  • March 10, 2008, 10:20 a.m. CST

    C'mon. The Zombie Genre is - Well, Dead...

    by Read and Shut Up

    Enough already. Even Romero can make a good zombie picture anymore.

  • March 10, 2008, 10:29 a.m. CST

    Zombie Genre will never die!!!

    by Hairy-ChestedLoveGod

    Sounds pretty cool. Nice poster art too. This is my first post on AICN...I feel like should something about somebody having a beer and cheating on his wife or at least suggesting HULK HOGAN to be cast in something. Oh well I'll just settle for this shameless plug of my friends film which would be of the same Genre of DANCE OF THE DEAD. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x46fxu_i-stole-spielbergs-brain_shortfilms

  • March 10, 2008, 10:33 a.m. CST

    Why don't Zombies Ever Rot?

    by C.K. Lamoo

    You take a dead human body, leave it out in the sun for a couple of weeks and it would be falling apart. And yet months and years later these Zombies are still shambling around, eating only the occasional survivor, violating the basic laws of matter and energy.

  • March 10, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST

    C.K. Lamoo

    by Hairy-ChestedLoveGod

    "Why don't Zombies Ever Rot?". The one's in the DAWN re-make did and I often wondered why the survivors in the mall didnt just wait it out until the zombies were so decomposed they'd be immobile. Things go down a little different in movieland.

  • March 10, 2008, 11:36 a.m. CST

    Harry-chested: Just saw DOTD remake...

    by C.K. Lamoo

    and wondered the same thing. I think the gun shop raid debacle forced them to move early. And they showed there was no food on the boat.

  • March 10, 2008, 1:03 p.m. CST

    "they won't stay dead!"

    by duanejones

    not even long after the original films are released. well, mr. romero "samples" some of the radio broadcasts from _night_ in the new, not-awful _diary_, so why not everyone else? btw, there's a cool article on _night_'s 40th birthday and the diminishing returns of the dead (that'll be the title for the eighth or ninth romero "dead" film). have yourself a look: http://tinyurl.com/2m87qm

  • March 10, 2008, 1:40 p.m. CST

    My question on DawnOTD remake.

    by C.K. Lamoo

    What killed the clumsy chainsaw guy in the truck?

  • March 10, 2008, 3:34 p.m. CST

    its about time

    by kilik777

    that quality zombie pics are starting to be released. Flight of the Living Dead was good fun and so is the upcoming Day of the Dead remake. http://tinyurl.com/pv8do

  • March 10, 2008, 3:47 p.m. CST

    Check out Dead Moon Rising

    by theheavy

    Ultra low budget zombie flick that just came out http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Moon-Rising/dp/B00116VG3C The poster image alone makes me want to see it

  • March 10, 2008, 4:15 p.m. CST

    Zombies don't really walk

    by Some farts really stink.

    So trying to apply rotting rules or anything else logical to them is pointless. E.T. didn't really make that bicycle fly through the air either.

  • March 10, 2008, 4:35 p.m. CST

    Also

    by Some farts really stink.

    The crash that followed after killed clumnsy chainsaw guy I suppose.

  • March 10, 2008, 5:05 p.m. CST

    Check out "Dead Meat"

    by C.K. Lamoo

    Great Irish Zombie movie. But leave on the English captions or you won't understand anyone.

  • March 10, 2008, 5:48 p.m. CST

    The Other Side

    by psychedelic

    The Other Side is Gregg Bishop's first movie and I can't recommend it enough. It's one of these cool little movies that fell under the radar. I like it so much that I've given it to two people as gifts. Yes, it's avaliable on DVD. In a nutshell: People who escape from Hell are hunted down by Reapers to take them back. The action scenes have the energy of early Robert Rodriguez. I originally saw it at Shriekfest, a little horror movie festival in L.A. I have no association with Greg Bishop. I just dig his movie. Can't wait to see Dance of the Dead; it sounds awesome.

  • March 10, 2008, 7:20 p.m. CST

    can't wait

    by cahcat

    i've seen Bishop's flick The Other Side and I can't wait to see what he's done next. It sounds like a lot of fun, wish I could have been at that midnight screening. yup.

  • March 15, 2008, 11:05 p.m. CST

    This flick was sooo much fun!

    by hotchicksdigme

    The Alamo rocked with free beer, great friends, food and an awesome movie! But I have one complaint- There is only ONE hawt chick it this film- the blond cheerleader with the machete- and she wasn't at SXSW! Why in Zombie hell would you leave the ONE HAWT CHICK AT HOME??????