Masters of Horror: Tobe Hooper – Dance of the Dead – DVD Review


Directed by
Tobe Hooper

Jessica Lowndes … Peggy
Jonathan Tucker … Jak
Robert Englund … MC

The Episode:
Dance of the Dead is one of those episodes that really benefits from aging. When I first watched this episode, I was really underwhelmed by the whole thing. After giving the episode a few days to process however, it stands up better than my first impression indicated. Of course, being better than I first thought doesn’t necessarily equal being any good.

I really enjoy the world Tobe Hooper and Richard Matheson have created here. Dance of the Dead takes place in the not too distant future in a quasi post-apocalyptic world. A number of issues (primarily the onset of a large number of terrorist attacks using ‘Bliz’) have lead to a society well on its way to completely falling apart. It is pretty commonplace in fiction to see a grim future where society has degraded completely; it is nice to see something where the degradation process is only underway.

In the dreary future depicted in Dance of the Dead, people have more or less given up. In some cases that is manifest through a complete distrust of people, in other cases it is depicted through a culture of self-destruction. Peggy, the focus of Dance of the Dead is an exception however; while everyone else has been spoiled by the horrors of their world, she has managed to hang on to an innocent view of the world.

Jessica Lowndes portrayal of Peggy is well done and helps us to actually care about what happens to Peggy (as she’s really the only character in the episode we are supposed to care about, this is a very good thing). Robert Englund is excellent as the MC of the Doom Room. The MC is played with such glee and you get a sense Englund is having a blast here. The rest of the acting ranges from good to mostly acceptable.

There are two major problems with Dance of the Dead. The first is that most of there are a lot of plot twists in the last third of the film. That in and of itself isn’t a problem but the fact that most of the twists are painfully obvious in advance is a problem. The situation is only exasperated by the fact that the twists are treated as if they are supposed to come as major shocks to the audience.

Now in some cases, having an obvious plot twist coming up can be used to a story’s advantage. You can get people to actively dread what is coming up, hoping against common sense that the twist may be avoided or resolved somehow. Unfortunately with this movie, even though I liked Peggy’s character, instead of a sense of dread I was filled with impatience as I waited for obvious developments to happen.

Score: 6/10

The DVD:
The Video
Everything looks like it is supposed on the disc, with no visible problems cropping up throughout.

The Audio
It’s a good audio mix. There’s a lot of ambient crowd noise in the Doom Room but it never gets in the way of the dialogue.

Special Features: Featurettes, Commentaries, Trailers, Still Gallery, Storyboard Gallery, Tobe Hooper Bio and a PDF of the Script.

There’s a good selection of extras on this DVD. There are two commentaries, one featuring the writer, Richard Christian Matheson, and the other featuring the director, Tobe Hooper as well as DVD producer, Perry Martin. Unfortunately the Matheson commentary is a bit sparse featuring a lot of dead air (as is often the case when it comes to these solo commentaries). On the plus side, they put Perry Martin on the other commentary track with Tobe Hooper, seemingly for the sole purpose of prompting Hooper to talk about a variety of issues. As a result, there’s a lot more going on with their commentary.

With the featurettes there are two (“Primal Screams” and “Working with a Master: Tobe Hooper”), running about twenty minutes a piece, that focus on Tobe Hooper’s work as a director. Not surprisingly these focus primarily on Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, of course, Dance of the Dead. We also get on set interviews with actors Englund, Lowndes and Tucker and writer, Richard Christian Matheson. These vary in length but all come in under the ten minute mark and make for moderately interesting viewing. There’s also a brief ‘behind the scenes’ featurette. Unfortunately it is pretty worthless since it is basically just some random shots of behind the scenes footage set to music.

Rounding out the special features, there’s also a fairly detailed text bio on Tobe Hooper, a storyboard gallery, a still gallery, the script and a whole lot of trailers.

Score: 8/10

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Masters of Horror: Dance of the Dead
(OUT OF 10)