Zombie Prom” proves yet again that camp without edge is like a zombie without rot — no guts.
Genial and bland, this latest entry in the crossover camp genre (think “Das Barbecu”) mines familiar territory — 1950s teen culture — in familiar style. Comparisons to “Grease” and “Little Shop of Horrors” are as unavoidable as they are unfortunate. Lacking the spark of the former or bite of the latter, “Zombie Prom” is like any old human prom, a lot of fuss for a very little fun.
Dana P. Rowe’s music and John Dempsey’s lyrics gently mock the various conventions of Eisenhower pop, from weepy Avalonesque ballads to “Leader of the Pack” sturm und drang, yet the score, pleasant enough, never rises above the generic. That’s a real problem, considering that “Zombie Prom” is virtually sung-through — and unimaginatively staged by Philip Wm. McKinley in a style more concert revue than book musical.
And Dempsey’s book follows suit. Surely there’s more fun to be had at the expense of teen horror flicks (as any number of previous spoofs can attest), and despite some mildly amusing lines (“It’s written all over what’s left of his face,” goes one quip about the undead), the story is uninvolving and the characters unsurprising.
Toffee (Jessica-Snow Wilson) is the Sandra Dee type who falls for rebel Jonny (Richard Roland). After a spat, Jonny throws himself into a nearby nuclear silo and comes back a zombie. Will Toffee take him back? Will the suitably (if not cleverly) named Miss Strict (Karen Murphy) allow the “mixed” couple to attend the prom? Will ’50s nostalgia ever end?
But any prom is what the kids make of it, and the youthful, energetic cast here provides the fun. Murphy gets most of the laughs in her ready-to-wear role as the tacky teacher, Wilson gets to showcase her fine voice and Roland makes the most of a banal monster. Repeated references to decaying flesh notwithstanding, the zombie is nothing more than Day-Glo paint and a fright wig, cheap even by the standards of a Jaycees haunted house. “Zombie Prom” should have taken more from the “Little Shop” plant that grew ominously larger with each appearance: Jonny could stand some rotting.