Fox Home Entertainment presents
Club Dread (2004)
"It's not a party until someone breaks the Jacuzzi."- Sam (Erik Stolhanske)
Stars: Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Kevin Hefferman, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske), Brittany Daniel, Bill Paxton
Other Stars: Jordan Ladd, Lindsay Price, M.C. Gainey, Samm Levine, Elena Lyons, Dan Montgomery Jr., Tanja Reichert, Nat Faxon, Michael Yurchak, Greg Cipes, Julio Bekhor
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
MPAA Rating: R for violence, gore, strong language, nudity, sex, drug use
Run Time: 01h:43m:48s
Release Date: 2004-05-25
DVD ReviewPrior to slipping in Club Dread for playback, an interesting premise for a parody of slasher films came to me: What if the descendents of those brain-dead, clueless teenagers that did manage to survive the likes of Jason, Michael, and so on from the '70s and '80s all came together family reunion-style at some beautiful, scenic retreat for a weekend of healing, bonding, and most importantly, fun in the sun! Enough tears, pharmaceuticals, and multi-Maury Povich appearances, let's par-teh (woooooo)! All the while, these goofballs who inherited little more than the idiocy of their parents would be oblivious to the fact that somewhere, within, lurks the offspring of terror...and I guarantee you he's holding something a little sharper than guilt.
Though the plotline of Broken Lizard's third feature film doesn't completely echo my vision, most of Dread's inhabitants veer so eerily close to the actions of slasher targets past that we can completely bypass the blood test.
And that's what this five-man ensemble had in mind all along, and although the premise initially sounded as appealing to me as one of National Lampoon's late '70s/early '80s post-Animal House output, I have to say this little-seen gem is a diamond in the rough.
Our cinematic getaway begins as a merry group of tourists set foot on a slice of tropical real estate known as Pleasure Island. In addition to being welcomed by scantily clad hostesses and cheerful hired help (including a representative of the impossibly hip Fun Police), this vacation site's main attraction is mellow rock's answer to Branson, legendary singer-songwriter Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), still coasting on his mid-'70s chart smash Piña Colada-Burg. With the combination of soused-up fans and happy vacationers snug as pigs in a blanket, all is cool...until members of the Pleasure staff start dropping faster than the culinary specialists in Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?
Could one of their own be behind these offings, like, say, Juan (Steve Lemme), the likeable divemaster-ladies' man who's hiding a deep secret from his past? Or perhaps it could be sexy Jenny (Brittany Daniel), the island's resident fitness guru whose sunny exterior could hide an evil heart. It's no fun being the new kid in town as staff masseur Lars (Kevin Heffernan) feels fingers pointing at him...but what about dreadlocked English tennis pro Putman Tallman Livingston (Jay Chandrasekhar)? Hey, he's already got the requisite three names to pre-qualify as an assassin. No, wait! It might just be Bruce Greenwood semi-lookalike Sam (Erik Stolhanske), the one-man (aforementioned) Fun Police (but not likely; his spare time's probably consumed with making shelf space for those 17 consecutive Employee of the Month plaques...and counting).
Not quite as polished as vintage Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker but planets ahead of sorry excuses for comedy-horror hybrids of recent years (Scary Movie, etc.) and unsuccessful comic ensemble experiments like The Kid in the Hall's Brain Candy, Club Dread succeeds with good writing, a superb feel for the over-the-top dramatics of modern horror (from camera angle trickery to intense scoring), excellent casting, and a fairly consistent knack for knowing when to go for the laughs and when to play it straight. As for the latter, don't be surprised if you find yourself having more than a few "whoa, baby!" moments (and I'm not just talking about instances featuring the heavenly Jordan Ladd). In the tradition of great comedy-horror combos like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Ghostbusters, there are genuine jolts mixed with the jokes; it's like a roller-coaster ride with laughs amidst the screams.
While all the members of the Lizard acquit themselves nicely, Hefferman's mystical masseur and Chandrasekhar's tally-ho tennis pro offer many of the film's best laughs, particularly in the case of the latter's ever-present lament in not scoring with Brittany Daniel's come-hither aerobics specialist ("You've got your arms around me, Jenny; I can only assume this means every other man on the island is dead." It's also great to see Bill Paxton getting a chance to tap into his undervalued comic skills as the Jimmy Buffet-esque Pete. Finally, what would a scare-medy be without its requisite assortment of divinely distressed damsels: Daniels, Lindsay Price, and the up-and-coming Ladd, who lands her best comic role to date as yet another potential suspect—a seemingly innocent, dimwitted tourist whose clumsy façade is nothing more than a masquerade (but in my best Bob Hope: it's one heck of an unveiling ceremony, I gotta tell ya).
Though some of the humor is unnecessarily crude and occasionally locker room-ish, such shortcomings are easily forgiven thanks to a plot that keeps things moving and grows more infectious as it goes along. Although none of Broken Lizards' films have created more than light ripples at the box office, this comedy troupe is on the cusp of greatness. It's only a matter of time before they hit creative paydirt and come up with a project that will be the equal of those who have inspired them. Spottiness aside, Club Dread showcases more than enough evidence that this comedy quintet is a team worth following as they continue upon that quest.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen||1.33:1 - P&S|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||no|
Image Transfer Review: Most times, Fox's transfers of recent films are so impeccable that it's challenging finding new ways to describe them. But for some reason, the technical team assigned to this presentation somewhat let them down. Noticeable compression and slightly annoying edge enhancement are very much in evidence, which is a shame because Dread's colors are gorgeously replicated along with good black levels. And why, oh why aren't two-sider discs of 2:35 ratio movies (to showcase full-frame junk on the B-side) like this still extinct?
Image Transfer Grade: B
|DS 2.0||Spanish, French||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: In complete contrast to the visuals, Club's aural counterpart is nothing short of striking. An enveloping surround mix that is very effective, from jolts of old-fashioned reverb and echoed whistles emerging from the back to sudden bass drum thuds and nicely spread foley effects and background noises in the fronts add up to one of the best 5.1 tracks I've heard in 2004.
Audio Transfer Grade: A+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1). Director Jay Chandrasekhar and co-writer Erik Stolhanske
2.) Co-Writers Kevin Hefferman, Steve Lemme and Paul Soter
Packaging: Keep Case
- Soundtrack Promo
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsDon't let its one-month stay in theaters influence you, Club Dread is an above average homage to terror flicks. While sufficient extras, terrific audio, and adequate visuals make it a natural for Broken Lizard's support base, I highly recommend it for cautious renters; don't be surprised if you walk away a member of this rapidly rising comedy group's fan club.
Jeff Rosado 2004-06-09