Horror spoof that has a shot at something special but misfires rather badly.
Super Troopers, the last film from the erstwhile Broken Lizard crew perhaps didn't impress this scrivener as much as my comrade, but it contained a dense enough chuckle per minute density ratio to raise some mild hopes for their latest outing. Set on Coconut Pete's Pleasure Island, a Costa Rican holiday resort run by the acid addled ex-rocker Coconut Pete himself (Bill Paxton), the film's title provides the first hint that things might not run smoothly over the course of the flick. The scary campfire story told of a machete wielding maniac becomes a horrific reality once the staff of the resort start dropping like flies, or at least flies with gaping wounds on them.
Focusing on Pete, newly arrived masseuse Lars (Kevin Heffernan), aerobics instructor Jenny (Brittany Daniel), DJ / drug distributor Dave (Paul Soter) and the variously wackily accented dive master Juan (Julio Bekhor) and tennis instructor Putman (director Jay Chandrasekhar pulling double duty), they go through the usual paranoia of suspecting each other as the list of possible suspects grows shorter daily while trying to keep this information from the guests to prevent a panic. Trapped, isolated and vulnerable, it's very much a traditional setup for a slasher movie. It's only break with tradition is trying to make you laugh as often as it tries to make you jump.
The operative word in both clauses is 'try', and it's associated concept 'fail'. Seemingly unsure whether to take a post-modern ironic Scream style approach or channel Scary Movie and just take the piss, Club Dread bounces between both worlds without taking much of note from either camp. With a palpable lack of tension and an equally noticeable lack of gags, the main problem this movie has in not so much a lack of competence as it is a lack of inspiration.
To give the Broken Lizard chaps their due, taking both parts in isolation you'll have probably seen worse attempts at horror movies and less gigglesome comedies. It's just that no-one was really crying out for an uneasy mix of the two, and despite a few moments of offhand lunacy (the live action game of Pac-man stands out in particular) there's not much in the way of wit or frights to make the movie worth your time or money.
None of the often espoused genre clichés and conventions are ignored, and there's more than a few bouncing bosoms freed from the tyranny of their clothing. The point isn't so much to produce some vastly new form of entertainment as it is to mechanically reclaim familiar parts of it's stablemates, but even for people with a love of this type of film there's not much to appreciate outside of Chandrasekhar's accent and a gravelly performance from Bill Paxton that doesn't so much steal scenes as the entire movie.
As the credits on Club Dread roll the biggest disappointment isn't likely to be the quality of the movie as such - if you're anything like as addicted to the silver screen as we are you're likely to have seen worse this year already. More telling is the sense of opportunity wasted and of talent that has proven to be capable of far better in the past, and perhaps that makes the perceived crimes of this film all the greater. It's difficult to find much to recommend in Club Dread. It's not as bad as perhaps you've heard, but it's still pretty bad and not something we'd recommend that you break down doors to see, or even open doors to see. If, however, at some point you have a view of this film completely unimpeded by closed portals then give it a go, but don't come crying to us if your sides aren't split.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.
Jordan Ladd (Penelope)
Brittany Daniel (Jenny)
Richard Perello (Cliff)
Steve Lemme (Juan)
Jay Chandrasekhar (Putman)
Paul Soter (Dave)
Erik Stolhanske (Sam)
Lindsay Price (Yu)
Julio Bekhor (Carlos)
Bill Paxton (Coconut Pete)