As someone who found Broken Lizard’s first effort, Super Troopers, more painful than funny, I was not predisposed to expect very much from their new film — and, in most respects, I was not disappointed.
That’s a pity, because Club Dread starts off as a pretty sharp satire of the slasher movie, ends with what should be the last word in unstoppable killing-machine monsters, and boasts a spot-on caricature of Jimmy Buffett that will warm the heart of anyone less than enchanted by Mr. Boat Drinks’ patented, laid-back-beachcomber mellowness. Unfortunately, the beginning and the ending account for maybe 10 minutes out of an overlong 105, and one on-target satire does not a movie save.
Now, horror and comedy are often a good mix, as was proven in the 1930s, with James Whale’s blackly humorous horror films. Too, Bob Hope pulled it off twice with The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost Breakers, and even Martin and Lewis (God save us) managed it with Scared Stiff, their remake of The Ghost Breakers. More recently, Stuart Gordon mixed the genres with Re-Animator, while Peter Jackson — in his pre-Lord of the Rings days — gave us a comic- splatter-puppet movie (Meet the Feebles); the amusing, bad-taste horror of (what else?) Bad Taste; and the ultimate comic-zombie gore-a-thon Dead Alive (which supposedly used 5,000 gallons of fake blood).
So it obviously can be done — though apparently not by the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. They may aspire to Jacksonian heights, but they rarely climb to the none-too-lofty level of Scary Movie. For that matter, Freddy Vs. Jason and Jeepers Creepers 2 both manage to spoof themselves more successfully than do the Lizard boys. The problem seems to be that this bunch has made two movies — a not terribly funny comedy and a somewhat unpleasant, but not terribly frightening horror picture — and never the twain do meet. That problem is compounded by the film’s making fun of a premise — a group of people stranded on an island with a crazed killer on the loose — that no one takes very seriously when it’s used in the real McSlasher.
The setup, with characters doing all those things that signal their impending demise, allows for a great compendium of every such cliche imaginable: going into the woods alone, indulging in drugs and sex, being disrespectful of “sacred” ground (a threesome in a mausoleum?) and so on. It’s a marvelous start — to a movie that never materializes. Apart from a great bit where one potential victim tries to get away from the killer in a slow-moving golf cart, what follows is little more than the your standard-issue slasher flick.
The killings are surprisingly gory, lacking the camp value of the real thing’s deliberately exaggerated bloodletting, while one offing is even wince-inducing (a girl trying to keep from falling off a cliff by holding onto the blade of the killer’s machete as it slices into her fingers). And the comedy, when it doesn’t center on Bill Paxton’s stoned-out Coconut Pete (who gets cheesed when anyone mentions “Margaritaville” rather than his anthemic “Pina Colada Burg,” which he assures us predates the Buffett standard by “seven-and-a-half f**king years”) is … well, uninspired.
Even the best of Coconut Pete comes in small touches — albums with titles like Sea Chanties and Wet Panties, or the fact that he was so trashed when he made his records that he can’t even remember his own work. As often as not, the bigger comic moments fall flat, relieved only by the film’s climax, which actually does understand the meaning of overkill.
On the plus side, at least this time the Lizard gang don’t subject us to a full-frontal-nude shot of Keven Hefrernan. It’s a small mercy, perhaps, but a mercy nonetheless.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke