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Film / Dance of the Dead

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Dance of the Dead is an American zombie horror-comedy film released in 2008. It premiered exclusively at Mann's Chinese 6 Theaters in Los Angeles on October 13, before being released on DVD the next day. The film was directed by Gregg Bishop and written by Joe Ballarini. The film stars Jared Kusnitz, Greyson Chadwick, Chandler Darby, Carissa Capobianco and Mark Oliver.

In true style of the teen horror genre, a group of high school students try and defend their prom from hordes of the undead, who have been resurrected presumably via the chemicals emitted from the power plant, located conveniently next to the cemetery.


Dance of the Dead contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Jimmy, Kyle and Gwen travel through one while trying to meet up with the others, and take notice of all the toxic sludge.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Coach Keel crawls through the air-vents, setting bombs throughout the school in the climax although he accidentally drops the remote to set them off in the middle of the dance floor while crossing over it, forcing Jimmy to go in and retrieve it.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Steven likes Gwen and tries asking her to go to prom with him. Gwen wants to go with Nash Ramble instead, as her first choice bailed on her due to sickness. Nash, however, shoots her down. Steven still likes Gwen, but while they do show a little Ship Tease after she realizes he likes her, she only starts to seriously like him back after she is bitten by the zombie headmaster.
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  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Gwen has a crush on the dark and brooding Nash, but quickly gets disillusioned when she asks him out (although later she is happy to see him alive and is impressed to hear his music kept the zombies at bay).
  • An Axe to Grind: Lindsey's weapon of choice when heading to the school.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with them heading out to shut down the power plant (after stopping for breakfast at pancake hut first).
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Toward the end of the movie, Gwen turns into a zombie following an unseen bite on the arm.
    • Also Kyle in the funeral home after struggling with one of the bagged corpses.
  • Anti-Hero: Jimmy only wanted to go to prom with Lindsay.
  • Anyone Can Die: You deserved better, Gwen, Steven, Jensen and Kyle.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: In a deleted scene, hoping for a rebound date, Jimmy asks Jennifer's friend Teri if it was just him or if there was some romantic sparks between them when they read Romeo and Juliet for English class together. Keep in mind that Jimmy had already asked her best friend out right in front of her before asking Teri, and with a far weaker pretext.
Teri: It was just you.
  • Asshole Victim: Mitch and Mr. Hammond.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The zombies have an unusual weakness to music, which is taken advantage of twice by Nash, Jensen and Dave.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Jimmy and Lindsay aren't perfectly compatible, but both try to reach each other quickly after the zombie apocalypse despite being broken up. once they get together they again they have a fight, but ultimately they get back together.
  • Ax-Crazy: Kyle has a very short temper.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Jimmy and Lindsey, after being surrounded in the school gym.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Jimmy in his prom suit.
  • Bait-and-Switch: It initially looks like the Sci-Fi club is well-attended, and not just by Hollywood Nerd's, but then it turns out most of the attendees thought they were at an Amnesty International meeting and leave.
  • Batter Up!: Jimmy's weapon of choice, which gets an upgrade when he drives a few nails into the bat.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Downplayed. Jennifer is shown obsessing over being prom queen for the first third of the movie, and while she gets that wish, zombies end up attacking the prom. Jennifer becoming Prom Queen is incidental to the zombies attacking, and she does survive by hiding in the bathroom, but by the end of the movie she admits that being Prom Queen now feels more meaningless.
  • Behind the Black: Jimmy, Lindsey, Steven, Jules, George, Gwen and Kyle discover a body lying on an examination table in the basement/morgue of the funeral home. As Kyle prepares to load his gun, the camera moves to focus on Kyle's actions, but when it returns to show the table, the body is nowhere to be seen.
    • Also, when the zombies enter the grocery store, the clerk looks down one aisle, where the perspective then switches to his point of view, showing a group of zombies devouring a customer. Cue a random zombie jumping up in front of him, which would have otherwise been impossible for the clerk to not notice.
  • Beta Couple: Although their relationship is mostly limited to mild flirting, Gwen and Steven serve as this to Lindsay and Jimmy.
  • Betty and Veronica: Played with for two separate triangles. Well-groomed, student council president Mitch presents himself as The Betty for Lindsay, implying that Jimmy's bad attitude and constant smell of pizza make him a Veronica type, although the opposite is arguably true given that Jimmy is her long-term boyfriend, and a humbler character than the superficially charming Mitch. Lovable Nerd Steven is the Betty towards Gwen, while garage band leader Nash is the Veronica. Nash doesn't show that much interest in Gwen though, something she quickly realizes, although she does seem a little too happy for Steven's taste when they find out that he and his band survived.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: Kyle. who dies at the funeral home.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: Pretty much everyone by the time they get out of the funeral home.
  • The Bully: Kyle fills this role very well.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: George and Jules have suffered a lot of bullying at the hands of Kyle, although he has difficulty remembering a lot of it when they prompt him.
  • Car Fu: An accidental version, when Lindsay runs over a couple zombies chasing the sci-fi club at the beginning. Later Gwen runs over several zombies when bringing the hearse around and says she's sorry each time.
  • The Caretaker: The one from the cemetery who shows up periodically throughout the film.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Gwen uses her cheerleading aerobics and running speed to get to the hearse and swing around to pick everyone up at the front door.
  • Class Princess: Jennifer the prom queen is horrified by all of the deaths during the zombie rampage rather than just being relieved by her own survival. She also isn't embarrassed to admit that she has some geeky beliefs and interests. Her one Jerkass moment is only in a Deleted Scene and is more of a Jerkass Has a Point moment.
  • Control Freak: Lindsay is fairly likable, but does get irritated when someone spells the prom poster and tries to take charge of boarding up the windows to the point where George argues with her over it.
  • Cool Loser: Jules, Steven and George.
  • Cowardly Lion: Tough guy Kyle is introduced cowering and crying after a zombie attack but quickly gets over it (a bit defensively) and breaks out his gun to fight zombies with. Gwen is also willing to bravely step up a few times despite seeming creeped out at others.
  • Creepy Mortician: The zombie-fighting gravedigger is a fairly heroic version.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Nash is clad in black, a bit brooding, and kind of coarse when Gwen asks him out, but is ultimately fairly heroic.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: An accidental version. While they're surrounded by zombies, when Gwen finds out Steven had wanted to go to prom with her before learning she wanted to ask Nash, she tells him that he should have asked anyway. Steven says that she would have said no and Gwen replies (with an earnest smile) that if it was a choice between being at prom with him and being chased by zombies, she would have chose him.
  • Date Rape Averted: Mitch drives Lindsay to the cemetery before the dance, gives her a beer, and starts groping her, trying to calm her down when she protests before finally telling her to 'shut up'. Fortunately for her, he's dragged out of the car by zombies before it can go any further.
  • The Dead Can Dance: Downplayed, but the zombies do slow dance a little whenever they hear Nash, Jensen and Dave's music.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The zombies rip Mitch's head off and thrust it up against the car window, freaking out Lindsay.
  • Delinquent Hair: Kyle and his mohawk definitely count, and Dave the Drummer's hair is fairly wild as well.
  • Devoured by the Horde: When trying to escape the school, Jensen, one of the band members, gets caught by a horde of zombies and gets devoured by them just before almost making it to the next classroom.
  • Distracted from Death: A storekeeper reading a magazine fails to notice several zombies coming inside.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Or rather the dissected frog in biology class rises from the dead and attacks the biology teacher while he's alone in the classroom.
  • Dumb Blonde: Gwen. Even before she opens her mouth: she decides to go for a jog instead of going to prom, and isn't seen again until Jimmy and Kyle are fighting zombies in the street...where she is still jogging as if nothing has happened.
    Gwen: (To Coach Keel) "I don't know how to shoot a machete."
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Gwen delivers this gem.
    Um, Jimmy, he just got bit. So shouldn't we, like, leave?
    • Earlier, she notes that they'll need years of therapy after this.
  • Entitled to Have You: Mitch displays some of this towards Lindsay.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies
  • Eye Scream: After tripping over and ripping her prom dress while fleeing from a zombie, Lindsey removes her shoe and stabs it in the eye with the heel
  • Foreshadowing: At the start of the film, Nash says that he senses something bad in the air, relating to the power plant spewing chemicals into the atmosphere.
  • Formerly Fit: Coach Keel is still somewhat buff, but notes that "this shit was a lot easier when I was twenty pounds lighter."
  • Friend to All Living Things: Gwen, who is uncomfortable in biology class, stating that she likes frogs.
  • Girl Posse: Jennifer the prom queen has a couple of girl sidekicks credited as BFF's 1 and 2, although they don't seem to bully or look down on anyone and just campaign for her to be prom queen.
  • Gorn: Occurs a few times in the film, most notably when Jimmy and Kyle are fighting against the zombies in the street.
    • Also when Nash is torn apart by the zombies at the school.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Lindsay tends to avoid saying Fuck and tell people to "get the Off out of the way."
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Gwen.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Jimmy and Kyle rip one zombie in half, and the lower half os seen still running around.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Gwen is jogging with her earbuds in and doesn't notice the zombies for a while.
  • Hero of Another Story: The Gravedigger. The opening of the movie has him carting around a wheelbarrow full of zombified hands, meaning the zombie problem has been going on for some time. By the end of the movie when the survivors drive away from the school, he walks toward it with a weary sigh, complaining about having to clean it up.
  • Hidden Depths: When Jennifer finds out that Jules and George are from the Sci-Fi club, she actually gets a little excited at this and confides that she saw a UFO once.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Prom
  • I Don't Want to Die: Gwen admits this after being bitten.
  • Idiot Ball: After discovering that Gwen was bitten, Steven knows. that he shouldn't be standing in the same cubicle as her, that he should probably put her out of her misery before she turns, and that he definitely should not let her hug him...but he still decides to make out with her ...and it costs him his life.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: An infected Gwen says this.
  • Informed Judaism: Jules.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Steven and Gwen both get a moment of this at the expense of each other early on: Steven takes pleasure in dissecting the frog even as Gwen is grossed out by it, while Gwen doesn't get that Steven is asking her out and asks his opinion on whether or not she should ask Nash to go with her.
  • Insufferable Genius: Jules.
  • It Can Think: Two zombies carjack Jimmy's pizza van while he is arguing with Kyle. Also, one of the zombies at the prom still manages to spike the punch.
  • Jerkass: A few of the characters fit this role: Jules, Mitch, Kyle, Coach Keel and Mr. Hammond the science teacher are the main ones.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Mr. Hammond has a point about Jimmy fooling around with his frog and Steven using his camera during class. Subverted when he quickly crosses the line by forcing Gwen to dissect her frog.
    • In the deleted scene where Jennifer and her friends reject Jimmy's asking them to prom. While they might have been a bit rude about, him asking them to prom the day of is pretty ridiculous. The fact he asks them all in a row at the same time doesn't help.
  • Jerkass with a Heart of Gold: Turns out, Coach Keel really was just trying to help Jimmy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Mitch initially comes across as shallow and trying to steal Jimmy's girlfriend, but perhaps being right that he doesn't respect her enough. Then we find out that he doesn't respect her either and is just making empty noises that make it sound like he does while trying to sleep with her and not stopping when she doesn't want to.
  • Joggers Find Death: In a sense, Gwen wanders across a fight with zombies while jogging.
  • Jump Scare: The film definitely tries pulling a few of these early on.
  • Kiss of Death: Gwen turns into a zombie whilst making out with Steven in the toilet cubicle, turning him into a zombie too.
  • Life Saving Misfortune: Jimmy and Lindsay's break up kept them from going to the prom, where they likely would have been infected with almost everyone else. The same could be said about Nash and his bandmates failing their audition to play for the prom, Gwen's original date getting sick and Nash refusing to go with her, and Steven's failure to get a date.
  • Losing Your Head: What happens to Mitch after a zombie pulls him from his car while trying to rape Lindsey.
  • Lovable Nerd: Steven.
  • Made of Plasticine: The zombies are remarkably easy to tear apart. Of course, that could just be due to Coach Keel being a One-Man Army.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When they realize they've taken refuge in a funeral home.
  • Morality Pet: Literally, gruff Coach Keel resents the zombies for having killed his German shepherd.
  • Must Make Amends: Kyle. apologizes for his past actions to the others while about to turn into a zombie.
  • My Car Hates Me: Lindsay has trouble starting Mitch's car to escape at the cemetery.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Averted, as one of the characters refers to the undead as zombies at least once in the film.
  • Oblivious to Love: Gwen doesn't get that Stephen is trying to ask her to prom when he approaches her after cheerleading practice and asks if he thinks that Nash would want to go with her. Steven reluctantly says that if he were Nash, he would but Nash isn't interested. Later, he spells it out for her, and she hints that she would have said yes.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Coach Keel casually mentions having had to kill his whole block after they turned into zombies.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: It's unknown how exactly the power plant caused the undead to literally jump out of their graves, but they sure can run once they've set their sights on their prey.
    • Also if you take into account that one of the frogs in the school's science lab somehow gets infected and turns into a zombie frog. It somehow manages to attack and infect the science teacher, and is never seen again.
  • Pair the Spares: The prom queen and one of her friends get a little Ship Tease with George and Jules.
  • Panty Shot: When Gwen is doing some flips at cheerleading practice, which Steven films.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Nash's hair goes down around his eyes in a couple scenes.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Coach Keel and Kyle both half-seriously throw around some homophobic slurs from time to time.
  • Pom-Pom Girl: Gwen isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer but is pretty nice and perky (bring willing to talk to the geeky Steven and ask his advice even while not returning his crush) and fairly chaste (based on her reaction to Nash turning down her invitation to prom but saying he will let her give him oral sex if she wants).
  • Punch-Clock Hero: The Gravedigger tries to put down zombies emerging from they're graves not necessarily out of heroism, but due to wanting to keep his job at the cemetery.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Who else can bring an end to a zombie outbreak than the class clown, three nerds, a cheerleader, a bully with a criminal record, the head of the student council, the gym class coach, and the drummer, bassist and vocalist of a student rock band?
  • Reckless Gun Usage: When Jules gets his hand on Kyle's gun he quickly accidentally shoots the last round into the ceiling. Knowledge of this trope is implied to be why Coach Keel doesn't give any of the others guns.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Kyle, following the outbreak, starts acting less of a jerk toward Jimmy, Jules, Steven and George, going as far as saving them when they are trapped in the funeral home.
  • Redhead In Green: Lindsay at the start of the film wears a bright green blouse.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: The cemetery caretaker tells Jules, George and Steven that the latter is the only way to destroy the zombies.
  • Rise from Your Grave: When Jules, Steven and George are chased through the cemetery, the zombies can be seen literally jumping out from their graves and immediately breaking out into a run.
  • Rock Trio: Jensen, Dave and Nash are in a rock band together.
  • Room Full of Zombies: The school gym, where all but a handful of students have been turned into the undead, after the group arrive too little too late.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr. Hammond the science teacher, who forces an uncomfortable Gwen into dissecting her frog during class and enjoys her disgusted reaction.
    • A deleted scene has him physically manhandling Jimmy in the hallway out of anger at feeling disrespected.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Jimmy is a Brilliant, but Lazy snarker, while Lindsay is the fiercely energetic student council Vide-president. Steven and Gwen also apply, to an extent.
  • Say Your Prayers: Lindsay does this a few times right before they head into dangerous situations, noting that "we really need it" the second time. Played for laughs earlier when minor character Jennifer is seen praying to be elected Prom Queen.
  • Searching the Stalls: Jennifer and a bunch of other Red Shirt survivors turn up alive, hiding in the bathroom stalls.
  • Shoe Slap: Lindsay angrily stabs a zombie who made her rip her prom dress with one of her heels.
  • Shovel Strike: The cemetery caretaker dispenses these without so much as blinking an eyelid.
    • Later in the film, Steven uses a shovel from Coach Keel's garage as his weapon of choice.
  • Skewed Priorities: Jules congratulating Jennifer on bering crowned Prom Queen after they make it out of the school, something she quickly lampshades.
  • Sore Loser: The Rock Trio refuse to attend the prom because they weren't hired to play for it. Mitch also mentions that his family motto is to never let anyone else win at anything.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: At the funeral home Kyle sees a zombie lying on a table, looks down to reload his gun, and when he glances back up to shoot it, finds the body gone.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: How Coach Keel decides to eliminate the zombies occupying the school.
  • The Comically Serious: The Gravedigger.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The principal is seen taking a sip from a flask and muttering "prom" disgustedly at the beginning of the film. Even he probably didn't realize it would be that bad though.
  • Title of the Dead
  • Together in Death: Zombified Steven and Gwen. Provide a somewhat creepy example of this, with an Interplay of Sex and Violence as they take bites from each other.
  • Token Religious Teammate: Lindsay shows aspects of this.
    • Kyle also expresses the belief that the zombies are a sign from an angry God.
  • Took a Level in Badass: While a few of the characters could fit this trope, the best example would be George, which is shown as the film progresses.
  • Uncertain Doom: The zombified Steven and Gwen. are last seen in the bathroom, but would have likely been blown up with the others.
  • Uncertified Expert: Lampshaded. The sci-fi club has some kind of device for detecting spooky energy that they got from George's brother at MIT. The others are quick to doubt it's usefulness though, pointing out that George's brother is an accounting major.
  • Undead Child: When Jimmy goes to deliver his final pizza before prom, the family he encounters are all zombified, including the young daughter.
  • Use Your Head: Kyle angrily headsets Jimmy after overhearing Jimmy make a joke that Kyle will need to take one of his sisters to prom if he wants a date. Later George whacks a zombie this way while wearing a football helmet.
  • Unwanted Assistance: The Sci-Fi club loudly yell out for Steven to ask Gwen out right as he's awkwardly trying to deny association with them while talking to her.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jules takes this attitude when Lindsay suggests that, before the group go to the school, they take a say a prayer.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Jimmy doesn't recognize the first zombie he sees and thinks it's just a woman having a seizure. When Jensen first sees them, he assumes that Nash and Dave laced his dope with formaldehyde and he's hallucinating.
  • You Are Too Late: The main cast heads out to the school to try and stop the zombies (who ewill be attracted to the noise) from turning everyone at prom, but find nearly everyone there is infected already.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: Jennifer's makeup is a little smeared from crying when Jimmy and the others find the survivors in the bathroom.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Essentially what Kyle thinks is happening.
  • Zombie Infectee: Kyle who is upfront about it due to the visible nature of the bite and turns quickly, and later Gwen who is scared of being killed and doesn't tell anyone, although she does try to move away from the main group.


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