VHS Review: Dance or Die


“Jason Chandler wants just two things in life: To stay off drugs and to choreograph a dance show that rivals Flashdance.”

Most of the time, I find myself enjoying these rotten gems on VHS. The ‘It’s so bad it’s good” sub-genre generally pleases me. This time around, I found myself disappointed. That’s disappointed with a capitol “D.”  Believe it or not, I struggled to find the right words to sum up this 80s shit box. It’s hard to come across a copy of Dance or Die. The ballerina in me exploded with glitter and rainbows when I came across a copy. I didn’t read anything about the film. It looked like the cover of an awesome slasher film where ballerina’s get slaughtered. Boy was I wrong.

This shit box was one of the first efforts of PM Entertainment by producers Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi. They actually called their company City Lights. This company hashed out a slew of shit boxes such as; The Art of Dying, Alien Intruder, Living to Die, LA Vice, LA Heat, Killing Mr. Griffin, and Sand Trap.

The story revolves around a complete loser, Jason,  who spends his time choreographing dance routines when he’s not too busy stalking voluptuous women at the grocery store – This is a scene that takes far too long as well as the scenes of him cruising around the streets of Las Vegas without direction. A pretty good portion of the film is just him riding around and trying so hard to prove that he isn’t gay. He also attends NA meetings. “My worst day sober was my better than my worst day drunk.” Holy shit, this is the worst character ever written on screen. There’s also a room mate who is a drug dealer that casually weighs his cocaine in front of Jason but slaps him around if he tries to get anywhere near it. What a friend. Nevermind weighing your drugs in your own room….. Or getting a new room mate to further fulfill your sobriety. As if things couldn’t get any worse, this dude is seriously wearing a grey fringe jacket.

Dance or Die is extremely boring until people are massacred at a BBQ party that the lead’s room mate is throwing. While all of this shooting is going on, nobody seems to be bothered by the loud blasts. One bitch is even trying to eat her hamburger while she’s shot. Why the hell is there a fish tank in the middle of their yard? Blowing it to pieces is a nice touch but it doesn’t make a lick of sense. The lead bad guy, whose name is Turtle by the way, is now after Jason. There are two women in his life, one is his sponsor and the other is not at all what she seems. His girlfriend has the worst hair-do I have ever seen and it never changes. She likes to watch Jason teach his class while asking questions like, “What’s with the bitch?” He replies, “It’s a motorcycle.” *sigh* What the hell is up with this script?

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Jason is plagued by nightmares of these women, vicious dancers, drugs, and the men after him. In one dream, he is hanging upside down, wearing a straight jacket while his dancers are growling and sneering in bad wardrobe. Pink zebra print tights and fluffy pink wigs would frighten me too. It looked like something straight out of a JEM episode. OH! And he sees a psychic to help put his mind at ease.

So now you know what’s what. What we have left is my complete rant over everything wrong with this film. The characters are poorly written. My daughter writes better characters with her stick figure drawings. The acting is sooooo bad. I had seen better acting from the baby seal in “Andre.” Even though the film opens with a kick ass theme song titled, “Dance or Die,” the rest of the score was horse shit and it didn’t even fit with the scenes. There’s soft piano music in all the wrong places. The film may take place in Vegas but I doubt much of it was shot there because most of the scenes take place inside, minus the BBQ massacre. There are several scenes where Jason is just driving around and those are the only scenes where we see the Vegas strips in the background. It’s cheaply done and nowhere near spectacular. Speaking of padding and repeats, the climax of the film takes far too long and the dancers are doing the same baby steps over and over and over again. People who have never taken a dance lesson in their entire life will be able to realize this. Also, the dancers in this film really are not that good. I guess their budget restricted that area. The choppy editing and crap filmmaking don’t make it any better. Some scenes just abruptly end with no explanation. I do have to point out though, it was nice seeing a 60 cent Coke machine. Trailers for LA Crackdown and LA Crackdown II are at the end of the film.

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