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If there's one thing that the Masters of Horror series has proven, it's that some of these "masters" have been away from the genre for good reason: they simply don't have what it takes to create a good horror film anymore. That's a bold statement, I know, and I really hope that Hooper will prove me wrong with his next offering, but after watching this episode of the series, I sincerely doubt that that will be the case.
Review by Chad
Added: October 13, 2006
Playing out more like one of those "rebel without a cause" films from the fifties than a modern horror, this episode tells the tale of a teenager named Peggy (Jessica Lowndes) who is trapped in a mundane life of working for her mother (Marilyn Norry) in a roadside café. This is a fairly common story in the real world, but what sets it apart in this film is the fact that it takes place soon after World War III. Yes, terrorists have struck against the United States with a new weapon known as "Bliss", a weapon that falls from the sky in an ash form (looking not unlike black snow) and literally melts the skin away from those unlucky enough to be caught outside. Nine million people have died during this time and entire states have been completely wiped off of the map, so needless to say, the country is in a state of anarchy.
This leads us to two "blood runners", thugs who rob people not for their valuables but for their plasma, who decide to pay a visit to Peggy's little restaurant. These men, Boxx (Ryan McDonald) and Jak (Jonathan Tucker), are loud and obnoxious, but Peggy sees something in Jak that gets the juices flowing, if you catch my drift. When he offers to take her out and let her see the world outside of this dingy diner, she jumps at the chance. First stop on her tour of the outside world: The Doom Room, a nightclub run by a fellow known only as the M.C. (Robert Englund), and a club which also plays host to a show known as the dance of the dead. Some surprises are in store for Peggy on this fine evening, and we have a storyline in place.
The problem with this entry isn't so much the script (in the hands of a different director, it could have been quite good) or the acting (nobody will win any awards here, but there's nothing to gripe about either), but instead, the problems lay solely with the director and the choices he made in presenting this story. The one thing that bugged me most was the actual visual style of the film - scenes are shot where four or five images are superimposed on top of one another, and although Hooper proudly claims that there are over 1,100 cuts in this fifty-minute film, this effect got very old, very quickly. I'll admit that it was a neat trick the first couple of times, but moderation definitely wasn't on his mind for this one. It seems as though you're watching an extra long music video at points, especially in one particular scene where the gang is driving down the road in a convertible. Although that scene may have been interesting had it featured the debut and finale of this effect, I personally had grown quite sick of it by the time it rolled around.
The other problem that I had with this was the way the story was told, that being in a way that was quite far outside of the horror genre. Sure, there are some great effects when we witness the effects of a Bliss shower courtesy of a flashback, but for the most part, this film is nothing more than a drama / romance story with the whole World War III angle thrown in merely as an excuse to show this during the Masters of Horror time slot. I'm fully aware that other episodes of this series have strayed slightly away from horror, but at least they all kept some element of the genre present throughout the running time; here, we're stuck with a shitty romance angle that builds up to a "surprise" twist in the plot that will surprise only those of you who didn't know the title of this entry ("The dead dance!? Who would have saw that coming?"), which is immediately followed by an extremely lackluster ending.
The only saving graces of this film are the post-apocalyptic sets that are sparingly used and Robert Englund. Those sets aren't used enough to change my opinion of the film, and even if they were, good visuals can't change the fact that this telling of the story was a small step up from horseshit. Robert Englund turns in an enjoyable performance (hell, the man could turn in a better performance in his sleep than half of Hollywood could while on top of their game), but even he couldn't save this one. 3/10.
- added 10/16/2006, 04:32 PM
Tobe Hooper is a hack. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
was a fluke, and as much as people want to tout
"Poltergeist" as a Hooper classic, we all knew
Steven Spielberg directed far more of that film
than Hooper did. He is just a hack, plain and
simple -- from the laborious nightmare that was
"Salem's Lost" to the ridiculous "The Funhouse"
and the more recent laugh fests "The Mangler" and
"The Toolbox Murders'. Hack, hack, hack. One of
the worst horror directors ever who happened to
direct one of the best horror films ever. 0/10.
- added 10/17/2006, 08:50 PM
I agree on a lot of things you both said. Tobe
Hopper is just a big name in the horror genre
because of TCM. But nothing else that he's done
has really caught my eye. But I still have that
hope that his whatever he does next will be really
good. But so far...nope. I thought Dance of the
Dead could of been sooo much better. The story
was cool, the acting was pretty decent, and the
atmosphere was interesting. But like the review
said, Tobe just didn't pull it off. Overall, the
movie seemed really amatuer looking. It's a shame
too cuz it really had the potential to be really
good. And movie by movie I'm starting to agree
with bluemeanie. Overall I'd give it a 4/10. The
ONLY reason I'll give it a 4 is because Murder By
Death actually playing during the film. I think
that was the most exciting part for me.
- added 11/08/2007, 09:03 PM
I find it very odd that this was based on a
Richard Matheson story. He is one of my all time
favourite authors. 1) I can't believe I've never
heard of this story, and 2) This was the worst
fucking story I think I've ever heard. Like Chad
said, aside from Robert Englund's performance, I
despised this fucking episode. 1/10