"Wow," with a capital W-O-W.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.
Dance of the Dead
Dance of the Dead
In a post-apocalypse society, 17-year-old Peggy lives with her over-protective mother and works in her restaurant. She misses her sister Anna, who died some time ago. When two couples of punks come to the place to eat some hamburgers, Peggy feels attracted to Jak, who invites her to go out on date with him later. Peggy goes out with Jak without telling her mother, and they go across town to a dark place, the Doom Room, where the master of ceremony is the ringmaster of a freak show with dead. The MC injects blood in the dead, and they dance on a ring for the exalted audience. When Peggy sees her undead sister Anna dancing in the show, the MC discloses the truth about her presence in the circus.
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