three Scary Movies
and even the Scream series, spoofing slasher films
isn't just tricky business; it's tired business. So it takes
rare talent to say something new, or at least let us forget
we've seen it all before. The sketch troupe Broken Lizard
may not be that rare talent, but, under the direction of member
Jay Chandrasekhar, they do a credible job of diversion.
they do use as many splatter film clichés as possible in Club
Dread, most of them serve as dressing to what the group
really does best: amble through some odd character work and
do mildly funny things. They've also got real gold in bringing
Bill Paxton into the mix as the hedonistic musician Coconut
Pete, owner of Pleasure Island. The veteran actor has his
usual sleazy charm, letting loose into the dark side of his
persona in a way he hasn't much been able to since the early
days of his career.
the resort on one of his songs, Pete invites college kids
and single yuppies to party hard in the spirit of his music.
If Jimmy Buffet had an amusement park, this would be it. But
in a somewhat clever twist, Pete resents Buffet as a rip-off
artist, especially when it comes to his famous song "Pina
there's a snake in paradise, a machete-wielding killer unsure
of his influences, draped as he is in serape and tiki mask.
There's a nod to Scooby Doo there somewhere. Indeed, Chandrasekhar
(also featured as dread-locked tennis pro Putman) stages the
island guests' arrival a lot like the film
version of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Instead of Mondivarius,
though, guests are greeted by Sam of the Fun Police (Erik
Stolhanske), in charge of enforcing a drunken good time.
all in flashback, after a clever opening sequence that sees
three staff members slaughtered mid-sexual encounter. The
problem is, Broken Lizard pretty much blows its wad right
here, piling fake gotchas on top of each other and making
sure that the three are dumb beyond belief. Their fatal tryst
moves from spooky woods to abandoned native graveyard, finally
seeking privacy in a mausoleum. It's not so much funny as
knowing, with us all nodding, "yeah, that's how those movies
killing plays out with a variation of those same elements,
overdoing the joke until it gets funny again. Unfortunately,
it never does get all that funny in the first place,
though the death of hot kitchen supervisor Yu (Lindsay Price)
evokes a good solid laugh. Like a lot of the jokes, the pun
on her name gets overdone long before she does.
this is a smart movie, just with a fondness for really bad
jokes. They're not just ripping a genre here, Broken Lizard
is also tackling a specific era. The film looks and feels
like the bad slasher movies of the seventies, the kind you
would catch opening in a double feature at a bargain house.
If the climax feels like a strange homage to Jaws,
you missed what they're after. (The troupe has taken the "unstoppable
killer" thing to a ridiculous extreme that works, even if
makes no sense. But then, such things never do.)
the script wedges killing in around ideas you know they just
thought were funny in a Club Med-like setting. Often, a joke
will come out of left field, get a big laugh, and lead you
to hope they can keep the momentum going. Though it ends in
tragedy, the live action version of a long popular video game
provides a comedic high point. A few things they put in the
film actually are the kinds of things those resorts
do, though if any of you have played "catch the naked guy
for free drinks," please keep it to yourself.
the troupe members have all written very different characters
for themselves than they played in their previous movie, Super
Troopers. As chunky masseusse Lars, Kevin Heffernan
does a pretty impressive about face from the jerk he played
in the earlier film, the infamous chunk-blowing Farva. But
somehow, they all made a bigger splash then than now. Maybe
it's because the characters here are just cut-outs, instead
of people we've never met before.
Lizard is a troupe worth attention. They just haven't quite
made the film yet that will prove it to people other than