After reading the near-unanimous venomous sentiments being spat in the direction of Tobe Hooper's "Masters of Horror" episode, 'Dance of the Dead,' I had the lowest of low expectations. Additionally, I don't consider myself much of a fan of Hooper's oeuvre--save for "Texas Chainsaw" and the "Toolbox Murders" remake, his career has been sketchy, with projects often falling victim to studio meddling and financial troubles.
And at first, I thought it was just my low expectations that made 'Dance of the Dead' stand out...but as it progressed, I realized that Hooper had just made a damn good episode. What 'Dance' achieves that most of the other shows have been missing is a personalization of madness and horror. The 'monsters' are not rubber-suited creatures or knife-wielding slashers, but unassuming tropes pulled from everyday life: most prominently, parental loss of control and the corruption of youth. Bio-terrorism, drug use, lurid sex, hypocrisy, nihilism, and the exploitation of the dead also pop up.
The notion of 'messages' underlying the horror are bound to throw up a red flag for some, but Richard Christian Matheson's adaptation of his father's short story is ingeniously executed by Hooper, who employs jittery framing and whiplash edits to produce a visceral experience (I've never seen a film simulate a drug high as well as 'Dance of the Dead') that, instead of dulling the social commentary, heightens it in a way that only really becomes apparent once the episode ends. Comparatively, Joe Dante's 'Homecoming' failed because it bypassed horror and hammered us with its message, whereas Hooper strikes an effective balance between the two.
There are so many subtle surprises in 'Dance of the Dead' that it's best to keep the plot synopsis brief: In a post-apocalyptic landscape, Peggy (Jessica Lowndes) lives under the watchful eye of her mother, and makes eyes with Jak (Jonathan Tucker), a sensitive rebel who runs blood to the emcee (a wonderfully sleazoid Robert Englund) of a local fetish club where the dead get up and do the titular deed.
For all the negative notices 'Dance of the Dead' has received, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Hooper has created a short film that is as creepy, hopeless, and frightening as it is moving and deceptively intelligent. A true dark horse in the "Masters of Horror" series, highly recommended.
Everyone in the film is dying-slowly from a terrorist-attack of a chemical weapon known as 'blitz', especially those who have been exposed-directly. In Richard Matheson's original-story, 'blitz' is exploded in the stratosphere, creating a huge corona-cloud that rains a skin-eating snow on its victims. Most of the victims have the look of lepers. One day, a gang of young 'blood-runners' comes into the diner led by a guy named Jak, and Peggy goes with them to the shunned city of 'Muskeet', where the dance of the dead is the main-event for nihilist-survivors and criminals. According to the MC of the club (Robert Englund, in a show-stealing performance), the military found that certain chemical-warfare agents would reanimate dead-troops to keep them fighting. One of the main-ingredients for this process is blood. Peggy's mother has warned her about the town ('It should be burned to-the-ground.'), with an odd-turn. She's hiding-something, like the fate of her other-daughter who...you'll have to watch the episode.
In this bleak-future that could happen tomorrow, Tobe Hooper shows us where America is psychologically, and where it could end-up. I've actually talked to people in their twenties about this entry, and none of them could tell me why they didn't like it. I can tell you why--it paints-a-picture of youth that isn't flattering, and it makes a few comments on the counterculture (as a dead-end expression) that aren't either. We aren't really very far as a culture from the 'dance of the dead' strip-shows, not-at-all. America has become-addicted to a form of sexualized-violence in our culture, and it's a violence that is senseless and without any motivation behind-it, or meaning. Some would call this conditioning.
37-years-ago, director Sam Peckinpah tried to change this with 'The Wild Bunch', by showing-us violence for what it really was and, for-a-time, it worked. With his machine-gun editing (taken-up by Hooper here, the hour-episode has1,100-cuts), and his graphic-depictions of people dying in slow-motion, Peckinpah tried to make people sick. By the 1980s, this style had been copied ad-infinitum without any depictions of the consequences of violence. Ironically, showing these consequences is more visually-graphic, and usually earn a 'hard-R', 'X', or an NC-17 rating for a movie. So, by the 1980s, Peckinpah had been trumped by Hollywood. Today, it's even-worse.
Hooper (and both Matheson-scribes) shoves this fact in our collective-face, and he does it with a barrage of imagery that is pretty-ugly. You could take-away the setting of a post-apocalypse America, and you could still tell this story in the present about an overprotected 16-year-old girl who loses her innocence. This overprotection is crucial, and Matheson setting the story in the American Midwest is strongly-symbolic. This is the real story of 'Dance of the Dead', and it rankles the wounded-idealist in all of us. But again, he's also telling us that we are jaded, bored and dehumanized, another reason some viewers were angered by the piece.
Sadly, most of the bad-reviews of this film only prove-its-point: we have become desenitized and dehumanized as a culture. Through the use of deep-colors, incredible-composition, and an editing-style that can only be called a barrage, Hooper has a great work here. Also, most of the gore here is pretty grim, and I expect a certain level of it in most horror-films. It's my own humble-opinion that the worst horror-fans are gorehounds, but even-worse is the film-buff who expects Orson Welles to do Citizen Kane over-and-over again (you could argue he did). This is a great addition to Tobe Hooper's canon, even an exceptional one. I think the main-problem people had with this film was the editing--it never lets you rest, and that's good. What a heavy metal Weimar Republic-nightmare he has crafted, it's stunning and real. We're all denizens of the Doom Room.
"Dance of the Dead". Tells a story of a angst ridden youth of America, brought on by a total disregard for human safety by those in power. A theme that's becoming more popular in the horror genre with Alexandre Aja's "The Hills Have Eyes" remake. There are no monsters here, save for the corrupted and corroded humanity of the characters.
A true Masters of Horror episode in that it's directed by Hooper (Whose "Poltergeist" would go on to inspire "Ringu") and based on the short story by Richard Matheson ("I am Legend" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man" are widely considered some of the best sci-fi, and in the case of the former, sci-fi/horror novels around). Hooper captured some of that foreboding, and pessimistic view of that master write Matheson, although hardly to the standard that the novel "I am Legend" did.
I was really impressed with this third entry in the Masters of Horror series. This is Tobe Hooper's first foray into the zombie genre and it's a unique take. These aren't flesh-eating ghouls out for blood, just pathetic cadavers who have become entertainment in a world without cable reality TV shows.
The camera work is dizzying, the music is hard, cold and nihilistic and the performances are great, particularly by Englund whose Emcee is a thousand times scummier, sleazier and nastier than Freddy Krueger could ever hope to be. Jonathan Tucker as Jak is an extremely likable character, despite the fact that he's a thief and a drug addict - he's also chivalrous and heroic, an odd combination that Tucker miraculously makes work. Jessica Lowndes as the innocent Peggy is perfect, going from scared kid to world weary woman within an hour.
Suitably disgusting and abysmally bleak, Dance of the Dead is fun to watch and difficult to look away from, kind of like a particularly bloody car accident. I would (and will) watch this one over and over again.
In a world that has been plagued by terrorist attacks (chemical attacks called "the blitz" if I understood the film correctly), few still live a normal life while many have gone on to a city called Muskeet where death and drugs are a part of life.
My only problem with this film is the way things were left unclear. To some degree, a mystery about the past helps the plot, but I was really confused through most of the movie and even after I had many questions. A film of this magnitude would almost have been better as a television series.
I also became a bit frustrated with Hooper's repeated camera technique I can only describe as "the water ripple", which he must have done fifty times. Once or twice would have been nice, but the film was hard to watch when it wouldn't stop.
Anyway, the acting was great. The main character (Peggy) was beautiful and strong, a great protagonist. Jak was also well cast. Everyone else could have been played by just about anyone (which is not to say they did a bad job, this film has some of the finest goth girls I've ever seen). And Robert Englund? Not his best performance, but great just the same.
I saw many parallels to "A Clockwork Orange", which I enjoyed (though some might say it was a derivative movie). The bouncers in suspenders, the car speeding scene, violence to old people. I could even say there's a connection between Alex's gang drinking milk and Jak's gang drinking orange juice (both wholesome beverages for degenerate people).
While the film had its weak spots (the actual "dance of the dead" is nothing special), they made up for it with the extra sex and drugs that any good horror film ought to have. And according to my friend Jason, they greatly improved upon what was a mediocre short story (though I cannot independently confirm this).
"Dance of the Dead" is another apocalyptic view of mankind after the Third World War, where the survivors watch the dance of the dead maybe to feel alive. The sick and unpleasant story is actually about the lead character Peggy and the fate of her beloved sister. She unravels the mystery about the death of her sister and never understands the fight of survival of her mother. I found this episode of Masters of Horror only reasonable. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Dança dos Mortos" ("Dance of the Dead")
Every second of this film is painful to watch, and don't be fooled by reviews saying this movie is too "deep for your average gore hound" there's really nothing going on below the surface here.
It's sad to see Tobe Hopper has gone off the deep end like so many other great directors (Argento, Romero, Carpenter) and just started turning out lazy work.
This movie is dull, and stupid; don't waste your time, instead watch a good episode of this show like Dreams in the witch House, Cigarette Burns, or Imprint(the best of the series)
This Canadian American co-production was episode 3 from season 1 of the Masters of Horror TV series, the first of the episodes directed by Tobe Hooper I think that Dance of the Dead is easily the worst Masters of Horror episode that I have seen although I admit I haven't seen them all as of yet. The script by Richard Christian Matheson really isn't very good, the character's are mostly unlikable, just swear a lot & take drugs, it's really slow going & I'd struggle to describe it as horror. It feels more like a teen drama with a few zombies thrown in there at the end, the bulk of the film concentrates on Peggy & Jak which becomes immensely dull to watch. This particular episode has various parallels & tries to convey a social message about modern society but I just thought it was all misjudged & comes across as very weak. There's a supposed twist ending which I thought was pretty bad & there's a distinct lack of exploitation elements. Dance of the Dead seems to divide opinion quite strongly judging by the comments on the IMDb but I genuinely think most people would agree this is pretty awful stuff & of the Masters of Horror episodes I have seen so far I thought The Screwfly Solution from season 2 was the worst but Dance of the Dead tops even that for crapness.
Director Hooper ruins this even more with hand held shaky camera shots that are as annoying as anything seen in The Blair Witch project (1999) & for some reason he uses crash zooms & blurriness constantly throughout & it becomes highly irritating to watch as if it wasn't bad enough already. Forget about any gore as there isn't any in this one, there's a melted skin effect but that's it & even the zombies look dull. There are a few scenes with female nudity though if that's your thing.
Technically this is alright, it's well made with decent production values but those camera & editing techniques make it a pain to sit through, well for me anyway. The acting is OK, Freddy Krueger himself Robert Englund turns up in this one.
Dance of the Dead is a really poor way to spend 60 odd minutes of your time & the worst Masters of Horror I've seen so far, one to avoid. Hooper's second Masters of Horror episode The Damned Thing from season 2 turned much better than this.
All of the characters are likable, and Robert Englund's performance is really over the top! I like Tobe Hooper's camera tricks because they add to the insanity of the world in the story.
Good story, fine acting, but not scary in terms of "BOO!" moments, but in the thought of how this can happen.
Jonathan Tucker and Jessica Lowndes make for a cute on screen coupling, although the former never entirely convinces as a rough and ready street punk, whilst powerful support comes from Ryan McDonald, Marilyn Norry, Lucie Guest and a typically OTT turn from genre stalwart Robert Englund as the Doom Room MC.
The master's post-apocalyptic dystopia has a curiously outdated 80's feel to it which couple with the pseudo-psychedelic camera techniques serve to district from the narrative thrust of the story but such is the immense imagination and originality of Matheson's genius that it nonetheless shines through.
We're just here for the red.
Robert Englund is really creepy as the MC of a horror show not to be believed. It is especially horrific for Peggy (Jessica Lowndes), who is attracted to Jak (Jonathan Tucker) and goes to the show with him.
What she sees is beyond the most unspeakable horror, but, even, more, the shock she next receives is beyond belief.
Director Tobe Hooper, and writers Mick Garris and Richard Matheson (Duel, I Am Legend) give us a tale that is about the closest vision of Hell that I can imagine.
It's abundantly clear that Tobe Hooper is living on (unmerited) past glories, indeed, none of his efforts since 'A Texas Chainsaw Massacre', are even worth a second look. And I wouldn't really recommend his supposed masterpiece (the previously mentioned TCM) to anyone either, it's a movie which has gained a sizable reputation that far outweighs the actual movie (mainly thanks to the video nasty bans in the eighties and the hype from people who've never actually seen it). The man just doesn't seem to have a clue.
I was looking forward to this series so much, but now after seeing this episode (only the second aired here in the UK) my hopes have been severely shattered! Maybe the producers of the series did this deliberately and gave Tobe Hooper enough rope to hang himself by giving him the worst episode to direct, knowing that he'd make a big fool of himself? I for one hope so, because I really wanted this series to be fantastic.
Despite Mr Hooper's efforts to single-handedly kill the 'Masters of Horrors' series, I'm still living in hope, simply on the basis that things can only get better!!
Great movie for horror/zombie fans. Cult classic.
F-bomb, nudity (not Jessica), sex.
The camera tricks also didn't contribute anything except to give my wife a headache.
Avoid this thing at all costs.
The story, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, sometime in the near future when the majority of Americans have died in a terrible war, and the anarchistic conditions only allow the strong to survive. One of the most popular gathering points for the drug addicted youths who rule the streets, is the macabre 'Doom-Room' hosted by an eerie creep named 'The M.C.' (Horror icon Robert Englund). 16-year-old Peggy (Jessica Lowndes) runs a little restaurant with her protective mother (Marilyn Norry). Peggy is fascinated when a young hoodlum named Jak (Jonathan Tucker) shows up in the restaurant with his no-good friends one day...
The movie has some good moments, Robert Englund is creepy as hell and Jessica Lowndes as well as Marilyn Norry deliver good performances. I couldn't ignore the fact, however, that director Hooper was obviously more interested to make the episode look as 'cooool' as possible, and focused on effects and visuals rather than on telling the story, which makes the episode look like a 1-hour video clip. Over all I was disappointed with "Dance Of The Dead", although I admit it was macabre and entertaining at times and has some qualities. 5/10
William Malone:"Fair-Haired Child"-Malone is one of the directors in this series, whose name I've never heard. Which is a good thing of course. This movie has really unpleasant atmosphere right from the start, which is also a good start for a horror flick. I guess. At least in it's surrealistic elements this differs from the other parts (of Masters of Horror). This is also the only part in which the (really sick) main characters inner life and history is shown at least a little bit. The overall feeling is kind of a mystery/fairy tale-like, although the story is quite close to the earth. Yeah, it's good. Nothing to complain about. One of the best stories in this series.
Jessica Lowndes stars as Peggy, a teenager living with an overprotective mother, Kate (Marilyn Norry) and working in her diner. A catastrophic event dubbed "The Blizz" has either killed or scarred many humans, and the younger generation are now running amok. One of the bad kids, Jak (Jonathan Tucker), is more sensitive than most and catches Peggy's eye. She sneaks out one night to be with him and goes to the club that he and his pals frequent. This is a decadent place where heavy metal is played and where women are made to "dance" in a rather creepy way. It's ruled by a grinning MC played to the hilt by the great Robert Englund, with whom Hooper had worked on "Eaten Alive" and "The Mangler".
The big reveal near the end and the eventual comeuppance do make this intense tale worth sitting through. Until then, Hooper lets the acting carry the story along. Lowndes is appealing in the lead role, and Tucker does a creditable job as well. The atmosphere is pretty heavy and in general this *is* a decently entertaining episode if not among the more well regarded ones of 'Masters of Horror'.
Seven out of 10.