A good day to die

ghost danceTHE GHOST DANCE

3 Stars  1980/93m

“When you disturb the dead you must pay the price.”

Director/Writer: Peter F. Buffa / Writer: Robert M. Sutton / Cast: Julie Amato, Victor Mohica, Henry Bal, Frank Sotonoma Salsedo, James Andronica, Patricia Alice Albrecht, Deloris Maaske.

Body Count: 9


Native American lore fascinates me, so this obscure flick from the early days of stalk n’ slash was high up on my must-find list for a few years. Would it outdo Fred Olen Ray’s clunky Scalps? Or would I need to consult a shaman to rid myself of its memory?

At this point, 679 slasher films along, any film that’s hard to find is likely to be so for one reason: It’s shit and there’s no demand for it.

Fortunately, The Ghost Dance is something of a lost gem. The tale is rote horror: White people – don’t go digging up sacred burial grounds belonging to the local Native Americans in Arizona, even if you get permission.

Pissed off by this desecration, local Aranjo rants to his mother that he’s going to even the score, ruins the dig (although the quality was so murky I couldn’t tell how), and runs off to a cave to perform a ritual that sees the spirit of the unearthed corpse possess him and turn him into a supernaturally gifted killer with a to-do list of anthropologists at the local university…

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There’s a slashed throat, a girl is savaged by a (possessed?) dog, and a horny couple screwing the night away in a museum are skewered and impaled respectively. Dr Kay Foster (Amato) begins seeing and hearing weird things. Her N.A. boyfriend Tom Eagle keeps shrugging off theories that something spooky is going on, and her colleague Paul isn’t really into the idea either.

The Ghost Dance is a slow moving critter, possibly deliberately reminiscent of the peace one associates with Native American culture, but it’s not boring. There’s a craftsmanship at play over and above many of its contemporaries, evident in the slow tracking shots down creepy dark corridors of the museum, interesting sets, and above average acting.

It’s also not tacky or cheesy. Sure, there are some unavoidable 80s traits on show, but nothing laugh out loud bad, which is quite remarkable for a body count horror film of this era.

gd2So why The Ghost Dance has remained so rare is something of a mystery in itself. It’s far better produced than its has a right to be, features enough splashes of grue and an interesting idea not often used in horror, but apparently has never received any type of release after its initial appearance on video in the early 80s.

It could do with a decent remastering onto DVD. Maybe it carries a terrible, terrible curse.

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