Broken humor

March 4, 2004, midnight | By Dan Greene | 17 years, 3 months ago

Broken Lizard's Club Dread is drenched in pretty much everything you would expect an R-rated, slasher-spoof to be drenched in: blood (and various other bodily fluids), alcohol, drugs and, if you can really be drenched in it, gratuitous frontal nudity.

But, unfortunately, 100 minutes and hundreds of liters of fake booze – although, knowing the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, I'm not be so sure about how counterfeit the alcohol is – and even more movie blood and guts does not make for a particularly funny or satisfying comedy.

Club Dread takes place on a beautiful, sunny, corpse-filled Caribbean island owned by the ‘70s rocker Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton, seemingly slumming it), which the aging acidhead converted into a hedonistic holiday getaway. The Broken Lizard crew make up Ol' Petey's interesting staff choices, including Juan (Steve Lemme) – filling the "funny-because-he-talks-different" slot – the dive master with a harmless but disgusting secret, Pete's ecstasy-driven DJ son Dave (Paul Soter) and Lars (Kevin Heffernan), the masseuse with a variety of unsettling abilities.

The beautiful, carefree people arrive, and everything is roses at the resort; parties go non-stop, and people copulate everywhere, often in fruit-costumes. But inevitably, just like the changing of the seasons, a manic, machete-wielding, serial killer arrives and starts disemboweling and beheading like there's no tomorrow. From there it's standard Scream fare as the club staff try to keep a façade of normalcy up and figure out just who is leaving corpses in the Pac-Man tree maze.

It's too bad that all this horror-movie spoofing gets in the way of the real humor in Club Dread. You might start to get annoyed after the seventh or eighth time someone is approached from behind while ominous music plays, only to find out that it's not the killer but a friend who just happens to be sneaking around holding a butcher knife. Surprise! Or it could be the fourth time the killer is violently beaten, only to emerge unharmed. It's true that these are slasher clichés worthy of parody, but Club Dread doesn't do anything special with them, unless you count endless repetition.

Broken Lizard's last effort, 2002's Super Troopers, was just as immature, lewd and simple, but a lot funnier. It may have been because the Lizards didn't tie themselves down as much. Sure, there was a flimsy excuse for a plot involving Vermont highway cops, lots of marijuana, and some sort of budget crisis; but this was a loose framework in which the troupe could pretty much make any gag they wanted and fit it in somehow. Broken Lizards is a deft, skilled group, but their humor is generally somewhat unfocused. Sticking to the killer-on-the-loose formula is limiting for them.

Perhaps an effort to one-up Super Troopers, Club Dread is crammed full of material, but too much of it is superfluous. Putman (Jay Chandrasekhar), the British tennis instructor, seems like he was only included because, as a Lizard, the group felt Chandrasekhar, who also directed, had to be included. In fact, outside of Lars, Juan and Dave, few of the club staff seem really unnecessary.

There are laughs in Club Dread; you'll either roar in laughter or grimace horribly at the "revealing" conclusion of Soter's campfire story about an insane, neutered killer. But these moments don't come around because of the horror elements that the film focuses on. All of the hacking and slashing only distracts from the humor.

Broken Lizard has its moments in Club Dread but struggles within the horror movie blueprint. So feel free to head to the island, but beware that this one of the rare movies that could benefit from less of a plot.

Broken Lizard's Club Dread is rated R for violence/gore, sexual content, language and drug use.

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Dan Greene. Dan, alright fine, VJ, is proud to be a senior at Blair and a member of the best paper. Ever. He's really funny, trust him. As managing sports editor and ombudsman he enjoys sports and ombudsing. Dan also enjoys literature, soccer and crude humor. One … More »

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