Club Dread Review
Welcome to Paradise Island! It’s the brainchild of acid-inspired washed up rocker Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), based on his hit song of the same name it’s the drug fuelled has-been’s idea of heaven, brought to life as a Club 18-30 style resort. There are no phones, fax machines, radios or computers, and most importantly, no strings attached. But Pete’s paradise is about to be shaken, by a crazed maniac with a grudge against him.
It’s not a film that requires much explanation, the strange minds of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe decided to follow up the cult success of Super Troopers with a slasher movie, or a slasher movie/comedy, or maybe it’s a slasher movie parody, sometimes it’s hard to tell but most of the time, whatever it is, it’s pretty funny. The team play the bulk of the resort’s staff, and they’re your usual collection of oddballs and stereotypes. Jenny (Brittany Daniel) is the island’s aerobics instructor, it’s her last season on the island as she’s just taken over lead duties on a popular TV workout show, after the previous star accidentally ate rat poison. Juan (Steve Lemme) is in charge of watersports, and even though his grasp of English isn’t as tight as it could be he’s a hit with the ladies, but could he be hiding a dark secret? Dave (Paul Soter) is the island’s DJ, and resident drug dealer, he’s Coconut Pete’s nephew, having grown up with him after his parents passed away, but just how did they die? Putman (Jay Chandrasekhar) is the tennis instructor, with his long dreadlocks and posh English accent he’s rather an enigma, but watch out for that look in his eye whenever Jenny ignores his advances. Lars (Kevin Heffernan) is the new recruit, a massage artist with magic hands who’s studied in the far east, but not just massage, he’s also well versed in martial arts and his razor sharp swords could inflict a swift death upon many. And then there’s Sam (Eric Stolhanske), he’s the island’s police officer, but he doesn’t work for the man, he’s Sheriff of the Fun Police, leading the hapless drunken partygoers from one ridiculous game to another making sure they have a good time, but despite being in charge of fun for the guests he’s often left out of the staff’s fun, could he be harbouring a secret grudge?
All the staff seem to have the potential to be killers, which of them could it be? Is it a resort guest? Has a groupie come back for revenge after Pete left her backstage with a nasty STD? The bodies are piling up almost too fast to ask questions, but it’s clear if Pete’s crew can’t figure things out nobody’s going to be around to meet the boat home.
Club Dread is a strange film, comedy and horror aren’t genres that mix easily, for every sly tongue in cheek success like Scream there’s an interesting failure like Cabin Fever, and an outright travesty – step forward Scream If You Know What I Did Last Friday The 13th. It seems skewing the emphasis towards horror is the key to success, so maybe it’s not the best task to take on if you’re a comedy troupe. The film starts like a standard slasher movie, a naughty couple out for fun on their own in the jungle, a mysterious figure seen through the trees, an old cemetery and voodoo dolls, you just know it’s not going to end well, but the horror movie tension doesn’t last long as we see the couple being attacked by a monkey, which looks alarmingly stuffed. It doesn’t take long to realise this is certainly headed towards comedy. Comedy, with lots of gore. Bill Paxton is superb as Coconut Pete, the closest thing to comedy on his CV – barring some straight to video abominations that were unintentionally hilarious – is the black comedy The Last Supper, and his role in that wasn’t exactly hilarious, but it seems he has been harbouring a secret comedic talent. The permanently drunk or stoned persona is carried off to a tee, just witness the look of total confusion on his face as it is explained to him the killer is choosing his victims based on a song of Pete’s, from an album – Sea Shanties and Wet Panties - that he doesn’t even remember recording he was so stoned.
The boys of Broken Lizard however, are on rather more patchy ground. I was expecting great things after Super Troopers, but it seems that was too hard an act to follow, not that the film isn’t funny, in fact if this had been their first film it would have inspired great faith in them and an eagerness to see their next project, but this is certainly a step down. There are moments of brilliance, Kevin Heffernan is the standout of the Broken Lizard team, but he’s at his best when he explodes out of the mild mannered Lars persona and becomes reminiscent of his Super Troopers character Farva, The scene where the surviving members all discover each other’s potentially murderous motives has some of the wittiest lines of the film, in fact there are many lines just as quotable as any from Super Troopers, there’s a lot of potential for drinking games here. In fact drunk is probably the best way to enjoy this film, it seems to be designed for a lads night in, gruesome murders, quotable dialogue and gratuitous nudity are all areas well served, it’s just a shame that when sober the comedy seems a little too fragmented throughout the script, and the plot is utterly ridiculous. In that at least it is true to the slasher movies it references, but by making it both a comedy and a horror Club Dread becomes a jack-of-all-trades and master of none
The disc is a flipper, but worry not, it isn’t one of those archaic get-up-half-way-through flippers, it merely houses an anamorpic 2.35:1 transfer on one side and a 4:3 transfer on the other (incidentally the commentaries are only available on the widescreen side.) Club Dread may have been a slightly cheap film, and shot rather fast, but it doesn’t show in this transfer which, while not being startling, is still very solid and up to the standards expected of a major studio release.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Club Dread sounds rather good, at least for a film without an abundance of audio set-pieces. Good use of the soundstage is made with the near constant music, the scenes inside the island’s club Johnny Chimpo’s – a nod to Broken Lizard’s mascot – obviously benefiting most from this, but it’s still an overall enjoyable experience for a comedy movie.
Commentary from Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Kevin Heffernan
Right from the start as the guys sing the 20th Century Fox theme song in chorus you can tell they came to screw around, and it’s a good thing they did as this commentary is almost as funny as the film itself. Along with ruthlessly mocking each other they have some great anecdotes – Jaun’s pronunciation of Penelope comes from a screening of Scarface they attended, when Penelope Ann Miller’s name came up on screen a guy behind the chimed in with “what the hell kind of name is Pee-na-lop?” The whole track is great fun, and probably one of the few commentaries I’ve heard I would be happy to listen to again.
Commentary from Jay Chandrasekhar and Eric Stolhanske
Being the director as well as one of the stars Jay Chandrasekhar has a little more to say about the making of the film, and a little less goofing off to do, so it’s good Eric Stolhanske is there to drag things down to slightly more childish levels. Starting out by thanking Danny Boyle for shooting the start of the film for him – you may recognise Paradise Island bears a striking similarity to Boyle’s Thai beach Paradise from the air, Chandrasekhar seems to have a much dryer wit than the rest of Broken Lizard.
A brief and pointless advert for the movie’s largely reggae soundtrack is the only other extra on the disc, which comes as something of a disappointment as you listen to the commentaries and hear them talk about scene after scene that didn’t make the final cut – one sub-plot alone amounted to half an hour of footage so it’s a blow none of it is featured.
Club Dread is a funny film, but it’s hard to watch without thinking it could have been funnier. Super Troopers has endless re-viewing value, and it’s obvious that Broken Lizard are a talent to watch, let’s just hope that Club Dread goes down in history as one of their lesser movies. The disc is a reasonable budget effort, and the commentaries are both very enjoyable, but from the sounds of things there could have been almost another film’s worth of deleted scenes, so much like the film the disc could have been so much more.