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Dr. Kay Foster is the head anthropology professor at an Arizona museum
and university. Overseeing the excavation of Indian artifacts in the
desert, she and her crew unearth the remains of a sadistic Indian
shaman named Nahalla. Later that night, after the mummified carcass is
carted off to Kay's museum, an Indian bum sneaks into the dig site and
steals a pouch which belonged to the shaman. Believing that he will
harness great powers and resurrect Nahalla himself to walk beside him,
the thief uses the pouch's contents in the performance of a blood
ritual. Nahalla is resurrected, but rather than walk beside a lowly
thief, he instead takes over his body. During a time when American
settlers had taken over most of their land and the Indians had lost
hope, the advent of the ghost dance cult renewed their spirit. The cult
was founded on the idea of a world soon to be inhabited solely by
Indians, including their long-dead ancestors, and where the buffalo
would once again roam in force. Rather than believe in such a thing,
Nahalla took up his own cause against the white man, namely that of
torture and death. Now in the present and as bloodthirsty as ever, the
legendary madman sets his sights on the museum staff.
"The Ghost Dance" is a relatively obscure slasher film from the sub-genre's early days. It's obscurity is certainly undeserved, as it's one of the best slashers I've come across. Horror films which center on Native American themes are often among my favorites to watch. I've always been fascinated by the various Indian tribes and their ways of life. Learning about their cultures, legends and beliefs was one of my favorite parts of history class. What's more, the mythology and superstitions of their people are fertile grounds for horror tales. Hell, many of the old Indian legends are basically horror stories in and of themselves. Not only that, but they're actually frightening. Combining such elements with a slasher was a novel idea.
Peter F. Buffa's film is well-made, one or two jarring scene transitions not withstanding. The VHS transfer is beat up, but you can tell that it's an exceptionally filmed picture. The secluded desert vistas definitely help, as does the atmospheric museum which is effectively imposing at night. Indeed, two of the film's best sequences take place in the dimly-lit confines of the museum. One involves the double-murder of two people who's liaison in an old stagecoach is rudely interrupted. The other has Nahalla chasing Kay through the museum corridors, eventually making their way to the bird display. This leads to the striking image of Nahalla standing in front of a stuffed eagle, his back looking like it has sprouted wings. Not only the most memorable shot of the film, but a thematically rich one as well. That said, it's actually the second standout visual we're treated to here. When the thief is on his way to the site of his blood ritual earlier in the film, we get a terrific shot of him amidst the mountains and a stormy, lightning-filled sky. Again, the VHS is a bit of a mess, and this thing is in desperate need of a loving restoration.
As Kay, Julie Amato makes for a strong heroine. She carries herself with a sense of authority, never coming across as helpless despite the trouble she finds herself in later. The twist involving her character about midway through is predictable, but that doesn't take away from the film. Henry Bal is Nahalla, and he's most assuredly a formidable slasher villain. One of my favorite sequences has Kay driving to a dinner date, Nahalla eerily popping up along the road every step of the way. Another has the revived shaman stalking her in the form of a house cat. Kay is a very appealing final girl, and there was tension in wondering what would happen to her. That's more than I can say for most final girls. The film's score has it's moments, enhancing the mood at it's best, sounding generic or even somewhat cartoonish (during the museum chase) at it's worst. The kills aren't overly graphic, but they're nothing to sneeze at either, particularly those of the stagecoach twosome. The ending is a little sudden, but it works.
It's a pity that Buffa never directed another film. He clearly knew what he was doing, as "The Ghost Dance" doesn't come off as the work of an amateur. There are flaws, sure, but nothing major. This is a quality slasher that cuts deeper than the norm. You wouldn't want to dig up Nahalla, but this film is another story. It's like striking gold for slasher fans.
***THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAINS SPOILERS*** ghost dance is a gruesome thriller of horror that talks about some archaeological excavations that dredge up a story mystikism and freak. a mad Indian believes that he has the powers of an ancient mummy nahala,turn a west college form a calm temple of learning into field of terror and blood.A row of vicious and heinous murders will lead to a shocking revelation.starring julie amato,victor mottica,frank salsebo and henry ball.In my opinion ghost dance is a good horror film that worths a DVD edition.i found it in an old video club and i bought it only for e few money with Greek subtitles.i didn't expect to be such a good movie.unfortunately it haven't been voted from a lot of people.it belong to the category of the buried movies and i think that is a very rare movie which must be looked for from the collectors who likes horror films 10/10
It's late afternoon on the Arizona desert as workers unearth an Indian body.Dr.Kay Foster(Julie Amato),the director of anthropology at a local university supervises the dig.She finds the remains of an ancient Indian warlord known as Nahaluh.That sinister night an Indian scavenger,Aranjo(Henry Bal)creeps into the excavation and steals an Indian medicine bag.That's where the horror begins.Peter F.Buffa's "The Ghost Dance" is a bloody supernatural slasher flick with a nice Indian angle.The acting is surprisingly good and there is some suspense and gore,including throat slashing and spear impaling.The film is extremely obscure,so grab the copy and treasure it.Highly recommended.8 out of 10.
Most of the other reviewers here on IMDb have The Ghost Dance down as
an obscure slasher gem. While I certainly agree that it's obscure, I
don't think it's a gem. It's moderately entertaining, I suppose, and
better than Fred Olen Ray's similarly themed Scalps (1983)but then
most films are.
Admittedly, for much of the first 15 minutes, I couldn't actually see what was happening thanks to the darkness of the picture, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the basics: it's the hoary old cliché of an Indian burial ground being disturbed by anthropologists, with a vengeful spirit inadvertently freed to go on a killing spree. While scientist Kay (Julie Amato) and partner Tom Eagle (Victor Mohica) try to unravel the mystery of the mummified body discovered at the site, the Indian proceeds to kill off the staff at the museum.
This tired premise leads to lots of stalking by the nasty native American, and a couple of passable kills (best of which sees a woman pushed onto a spear), but also lots of dull chit-chat, while the obligatory shower scene fails to deliver the gratuitous nudity one expects from such nonsense. Performances are adequate for this kind of thing, and director Peter F. Buffa manages the occasional effective moment (the creepiest scene taking place on a lonely highway), but on the whole this is forgettable, formulaic stuff, as evidenced by the predictable 'shock' ending.
4.5/10, which I feel obliged to round up to 5/10 because I rounded Scalps up from 3.5 to 4/10.
So I got this somewhere recently and for some reason put it on to
watch. It looked super duper cheesy and sometimes I get in the mood for
that. I put it on and saw a dark poorly made movie and thats always
reason to make me wanna quit watching, but I didn't.
It was a plot thats been done a million times of archaeologists digging on sacred ground and the mummy of a native American comes and kills a bunch of people! the end LOL.
It was decent for a slasher movie and although I never want to see it again I will say if you like slasher movies that it is pretty good. Its not just a slasher movie its a bit deeper plot wise. Very rare movie, so if you find it you might wanna watch it.
4 out of 10 stars
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As I write this review, the world is on the verge of one of the biggest
financial meltdowns in economic history. My country of birth, Spain,
has just guaranteed the savings of up to 80,000 Euros for every
Spaniard in order to restore customer confidence, whilst in the UK a
rumoured 500 billion of tax payer's money is about to be pumped into
the recently nationalised British banking system in a bid to put trust
back in to the financial market. In Iceland, banks have already crashed
completely, leaving customers without their hard-earned savings, whilst
politicians in the USA are battling around the clock to to thrash out a
saviour package. Things are not looking good.
Two weeks ago the Credit Crunch seemed a million miles away, but today I noticed that it's starting to hit the most financially adventurous of sports, with London's West Ham United football club looking set to be the first to feel the pinch. As investments tumble, chairmen will begin to haul in the reigns and become less enthusiastic to spend on those much-needed squad reinforcements in the transfer window. We may be seeing the beginning of a total re-shape in entertainment as we know it.
That suddenly got me thinking, what if the Credit Crunch was to hit cinema? What if suddenly producers became bankrupt and it was left up to production teams with experience of delivering a feature on the tightest of budgets to fill cinemas on a Friday evening? Although that would be awful news for the movie industry as we know it, it would be a momentous occasion for the slasher genre. You see for all their faults (and they have many), stalk and slash flicks are arguably the cheapest and easiest to produce. So if you don't see the names of Nolan, Spielberg and Mendes on billboards in the near future and instead see the likes of Devine, Stryker and Decoteu, don't be too surprised...
There was a time of course when a cheap slasher movie at the cinema was a common occurrence. Back in the inglorious days of the early eighties, titles like Ghost Dance were the'Dark Knights' of that long-gone and thankfully forgotten era. Although that sounds bizarre in our current climate of multi-million-dollar blockbusters, history has a funny way of repeating itself.
Ghost Dance kicks off in trappings that we would see again three years later in Olen Ray's Scalps. A group of youngsters on an excavation raise a grave from the Californian desert and head off into the night with the corpse on-board their flat-bed pick-up. Next up we meet a crazy medicine man who seems determined to raise the spirit of an ancient American Indian renegade from beyond the grave. After a hopelessly unconvincing 'magic' spell, the evil spirit possess the mystical magician and heads off into the desert on a maniacal rampage. Soon we learn that there is something more sinister to the killer's motives as he begins closing in on our leading lady
Alongside titles that include Scalps, Demon Killer and Camping Del Terrore, Peter Buffa's opus attempts to inject the curiosities and intrigue of Native American culture into the trappings of the slasher genre that were all the rage in the early eighties. Back then, the cycle was still in a transitional phase and unaware of its platitudes, but the feature plays by the rulebook adequately and underlines all the clichés that would become a trademark of identification in years to come. Despite making good use of gimmicks like the good-old 'have sex and die' routine, kudos must be given to the scriptwriter for adding a little puzzle and intrigue to the template.
A large chunk of the runtime is dedicated to the mystery element of tracing the origins of the maniacal assassin and although the ideas are bold and commendable, the story telling does limit the space for occasions of glorious splatter. The film does feel somewhat snooze-enticingly slow moving in places and the killer's appearances are disappointingly sparse. When the psycho does strike, Buffa handles the tension surprisingly well and the score creates a mildly foreboding and at times impressively claustrophobic atmosphere. I especially enjoyed the murders in the abandoned museum and Ben's face slashing was exceptionally gruesome. Although there's very little in terms of grotesque gore, the killings, when they occur, are satisfying enough and competently handled by a capable director.
It doesn't take log for us to realise that there's sure to be a twist in the plot towards the climax and even though it may seem fairly 'old-hat' by today's standards, the conclusion was fairly ingenious for its time of release. Native Americans are always intriguing and curious characters for the silver screen, but hiring a cast of competent actors that carry the appearance, heritage and dramatic credibility is never an easy task for a film crew on a meagre budget. With that said, the performances here are reasonably good and credit to Victor Mohica for a strong turning as the leading man.
Ghost Dance is not a hidden-gem, but it is decent enough for true genre fans to appreciate. It seems somewhat unfair that whilst utter dross like Don't go in the Woods can live on in the hearts of slasher aficionados, Ghost Dance has been largely forgotten. Slight problems with pacing do not detract from a decent entry to the cycle. I recommend viewers get used to watching this kind of entertainment...you never know when the Hollywood financial bubble could burst................
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