Club Dread

Broken Lizard’s “Club Dread” is a hit-and-miss hybrid of a movie. It wants to be both funny and scary in such quick rotation throughout its 105 minutes that it sometimes loses effectiveness across the board.

At various points the film brings to mind Scream and Friday the 13th, but also goofy fare like Scooby-Doo and American Pie. Indeed Stifler would fit right in on Pleasure Island, a Caribbean resort island where there’s wild fun to be had- and, we soon learn, a lot of blood to be spilled. The island is the domain of washed-up rock star Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton).

The film opens as a boatload of attractive young people are ready to let loose at his party-crazy resort. Since the whole premise and release date has a distinct Spring Break feel (everybody on the island except Pete and a bodyguard (!) looks of college age or slightly older), we expect a good dose of booze and sex, and we get it.

The five Broken Lizard guys have roles that make them seem like glorified camp counselors, and it comes as no surprise that this film includes a spooky tale by a campfire. Director Jay Chandrasekhar is Putman, the British tennis coach with a very unconvincing accent. Steve Lemme is Juan, a diving expert with a wild sex drive. Kevin Heffernan is Lars, the island’s new masseur with the magic touch. Paul Soter is the I-can’t-stop-grooving DJ and Eric Stolhanske is the head of the Fun Police, which is as corny as it sounds.

Added to the ensemble are Brittany Daniel (“Joe Dirt”) as an aerobics instructor and Jordan Ladd (“Cabin Fever”) as one of the guests. All would be fine on Pleasure Island if it weren’t for a crazed machete-wielding killer who’s regularly bringing down the head count. When the gang realizes what’s happening, Coconut Pete first insists that the show must go on: he’ll be damned if a psychotic maniac is going to interfere with such revelry as Fashion Show Wednesday.

Chandrasekhar and the rest of the Lizards (they all share screenwriting credit on their movies) use a decent amount of gore on the way to the revealing of the killer, while not forgetting to include a few topless girls, sex and drunken partying. It’s all done in good fun, and there’s something refreshing about BL’s unapologetic approach to humour, heavy on the frat boy kind but not limited to it.

Broken Lizard began in 1989 while the five were students at upstate New York’s Colgate University. They formed a comedy troupe originally called Charred Goosebeak then hit the sketch comedy scene in NYC in the early 1990s. With Chandrasekar as director, they made their first film in 1996, the very little-known “Puddle Cruiser”, then made a much bigger name for themselves with 2002’s “Super Troopers”, the hilarious (but also uneven) comedy about the shenanigans of five Vermont State Troopers. “Troopers” grossed six times its 3 M $ budget, and it was Chandrasekhar’s wish to move on to a slasher film.

He made one alright, although such a large core of central characters can be both a blessing and a curse. They have more shots at creating funny bits but also more opportunities to miss badly and give you the impression that the plot is going nowhere. Not helping is the way the false alarms are handled, with some being so clumsy and the accompanying sound effects so overdone that it comes off as amateurish rather than clever.

At the same time, the performances are fun to watch. Lemme’s Juan and Heffernan’s Lars are especially entertaining, and Daniel is a charming actress who’s a natural in the fun parts and convincing in the scary ones. The totally outrageous ending summed up the film well: dumb bordering on annoying, but also likely to cause roaring laughter for those who play along with Broken Lizard’s humour.

Review by J-F Tremblay