Mini-Review: Dance of the Dead (2005)

Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jessica Lowndes, Ryan McDonald, Marilyn Norry, Lucie Guest, Robert Englund, Emily Anne Graham, Genevieve Buechner, Margot Berner, Sharon Heath

Directed by Tobe Hooper

Expectations: Low. This one just looks shitty.

So far Showtime’s Masters of Horror is following an “every other” pattern, where every other movie/episode is shit. I’m only three shows in though, so perhaps it isn’t fair to call it a pattern. In any case, I had all kinds of red flags before I even began watching this one. I haven’t seen a lot of Tobe Hooper’s films, and what I have seen has all been drawn from his early work: Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Poltergeist, Salem’s Lot. If this episode is any indication, he’s lost that youthful spark he once had, constructing one of the most unenjoyable films I’ve seen in a while. It reminds me a lot of modern horror where the filmmakers do whatever they can to push the envelope, but do so without any motive other than to push the envelope. There’s edgy and interesting, and then there’s quasi-edgy and awful. I’ll give you one guess where I feel this one lies.

This is the kind of shit self-important teenagers looking to rebel from their Christian parents will enjoy, because it throws an endless assault of profanity, titties, and leather at you, without any rhyme or reason. The film is deliberately trying for the style over substance method, but it forgets early on that for this to work, the style must be flawless and intoxicating. Again, maybe if I was a rebellious teen. Adapted from a short story by Richard Matheson, Dance of the Dead further convinces me that either Matheson isn’t the genre visionary everyone makes him out to be or I just need to stop watching shitty adaptations of his stories and read some of the original source material. I should hope that his story was a little more coherent and meaningful than this piece of shit, because there’s very little here to care about. There is something of a good twist ending, but it’s not even enough to make me say “too little too late.”

This is by far the ugliest of the Masters of Horror episodes as well, only bettered by the horrid editing. Hooper continually uses a flickering effect to create the illusion of an interesting occurrence, coupled with shaky camera and quick editing. It is the ultimate sensory assault, and one that belittles the audience at every turn. I hated this one a lot more than Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, which doesn’t seem so bad when compared to this. If nothing else, I’m fairly certain that the series as a whole can only go up from here… at least, I sure hope so.

5 comments to Mini-Review: Dance of the Dead (2005)

  • Hi Will,

    Just watched the trailer. Uhm… okay. Where to even begin? First, I’m a fan of Matheson’s ORIGINAL work. Other than his Twilight Zone contributions (which were teleplays), I LOVE Duel, which was based on his short story. He also wrote the teleplay for that as well.

    Other movies based on his work I’ve enjoyed are “Amelia” based on his story “Prey” (the segment with the Zuni-fetish doll) from the Trilogy of Terror; Stir of Echoes; the updated I Am Legend as well as the much earlier Last Man on Earth starring the late, great Vincent Price. It was also based on I Am Legend. Most recently, The Box was another decent adaptation (although the ending was a let down).

    And lest we forget, George A. Romero has acknowledged he liberally “borrowed” from I Am Legend when writing Night of the Living Dead.

    So, basically what I’m sayin’ is: It ain’t Matheson’s fault, but the hackish way filmmakers are interpreting his original material. πŸ™‚


  • Crap! I hit “Enter” before finishing. Sorry about that! πŸ™‚

    Also, I wanted to mention I really liked your review of this MOH episode. I love that you are a real horror fan and don’t cut the “legends” any slack when they screw the pooch as is the obvious case here.

    I’ve tried watching a few ep. of MOH and I can’t get into it. Something about just rings of a crass attempt by most of the people involved to seem “edgy” and “relevant”. Rather than scary, most of what I’ve seen has just been gross, illogical, or, worst of all, boring!

    I’m a HUGE fan of horror/sci-fi anthologies (Tales from the Crypt, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits [even the much less successful updates of those shows], etc.), but the MOH series just hasn’t done it for me… yet.

    Great work as always!



    • Thanks for chiming in about Matheson. I always forget Duel is his; I love that one as well. I haven’t seen any of the other adaptations you mention, so it seems I really have only been seeing the shitty ones.

      Glad you liked the review! These Masters of Horror are definitely hit or miss. The Stuart Gordon episode “Dreams in the Witch-House” was super fun and for me it was easily on par with his Full Moon era stuff. I’m really hopeful that the John Carpenter episodes are as well-done as that one.

      Hahahaha, yeah I have no problem telling it like it is, no matter who’s behind the camera. I respect these guys, but poor filmmaking will not stand!

  • Laura

    One to watch for people who have mother/women issues (like all horror?).

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