CONTAINS...2...3... SOME...2...3... SPOILERS...2...3...
Horror comedy has always been a fiendishly difficult balancing act to pull off. Too much easy comedy and you dilute the horror content, too much horror and the comedy seems out of place. As a lover of zombie movies I tend to like them played straight and nasty rather than comedic knockabout: I'll take Return Of The Living Dead III over Return Of The Living Dead any day. But the wonderful Shaun Of The Dead trod that line almost perfectly, and this high-school undead teen farce has an additional wonderful sweetness and charm to it that makes it almost impossible to dislike.
If Shaun Of The Dead was a "romzomcom", then Dance Of The Dead is a "romzompromcom": a romantic zombie comedy set on Prom Night. When the dead start coming back to life thanks to the town's nuclear power plant belching forth its reanimatory fumes, it's ultimately down to the sci-fi geeks, rejects and weirdos who couldn't, or wouldn't, attend the big dance. It's the heavy metal rebels, UFO enthusiasts and violent hooligans who, together with the disturbingly gun-obsessed sports coach, end up outside trying to take down the undead hordes while the cool kids, sports jocks and cheerleaders are trapped inside the school: a limitless supply of fresh meat for the zombies....
Okay: as a horror movie nerd I'm probably more likely to empathise with the awkward sci-fi outcasts than the usual dweeby nerds, but mercifully they're not routinely picked on and humiliated for the first half hour as a cheap and frankly boring way of engaging audience sympathies. Everyone is generally likeable (those few who aren't end up as zombs fairly swiftly) and there's an immaculately constructed Star Wars injoke which raised the movie to the point where I'd still have loved it even if they'd just spent the next half hour kicking puppies in front of trains. And even though it doesn't skimp on the jokes, it still delivers on the splattery gore front, though it's done with enough wit and warmth to get away with a 15 certificate.
It's a shame Dance Of The Dead isn't better known: it's funny and gruesome at the same time, and in a world heaving with rubbish zombie comedies it's genuinely a thrill to find one that manages the genre mix so neatly. I thoroughly enjoyed it when it played Frightfest back in 2008 and it's still terrific today: daft zombie knockabout it may be, but it's rarely done this well.
The Dead Can Dance: