You have to admit that the resumes of the directors and writers of the Masters of Horror series on Showtime are very impressive. Name a famous horror movie and chances are that the director of that movie is a featured contributor to this series. When I noticed that POLTERGEIST and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE'S Tobe Hooper was directing an installment of the series called “Dance of the Dead” I expected something great. Well, unlike most movies reviewed on this site, this movie delivered in a big way.
The movie opens at a children’s birthday party and everything seems to be fine (singing “Ring Around the Rosie” and such) until something goes terribly wrong. People scream, little girls run for cover and those left outside are burned by a dark cloud in the sky that is only described in the movie as “Blizz”. This scene is one of many flashbacks that are used to tell the backstory of the heroine of the story, Peggy, as she lives in a post-apocalyptic world and who has survived thusfar due to the over protectiveness of her mother.
One of the most freakishly cool scenes of the movie involves the introduction of a rogue band of thieves, headed by Jak, a dangerous sort of anti-hero cast in the mold of Timothy Olyphant’s drug dealer character in GO. Jak and his partner hold up an old couple at gunpoint and they don’t want money. Trust me, it’s one of the stranger hold-up scenes you will see and after viewing it, you will be thankful for the contribution.
So, Jak and Peggy’s path collides at the diner where she works. Jak is a guy who has seen the world and despite its horror, has managed to survive. Peggy is a girl who has been so tightly watched that she desperately wants to see the world and take some chances. Peggy accompanies the group on their way to The Doom Room to deliver a package to a man known as The MC. Robert Englund returns to horror with a stunning performance as The MC, the host of a show that plays to the type of crowd that enjoys the “Faces of Death” series. Just picture Ryan Seacrest. Now hit him in the face with a bat a few times, burn his face, kill him and send to hell and back a few times. That’s The MC. The show culminates in the world famous “Dance of the Dead”. After watching this spectacle, I still wasn’t quite sure what that dance meant or symbolized, but it was creepy and a welcomed horror treat.
The MC, Jak and Peggy all deliver very strong performances and on the whole, Hopper delivers a strong finished product. Hooper, however, was a little overzealous with some of his camerawork. He overused this double-exposure distortion shot that really just gave me a headache, rather than added to the suspense. That being said, I think the horror community has gained a lot from Hooper's contributions and “Dance of the Dead” is a solid piece of work.
RATING: *** (out of four)