Though it wasn’t a box office success during its release, Broken Lizard’s Super Troopers quickly gained a cult following. It was enough of a following to earn Broken Lizard another feature-length effort, the slasher parody Club Dread. To some extent, Broken Lizard were a bit late to the game. Just eight years earlier Wes Craven had put slasher tropes on notice with Scream. A few years later, the Wayans brothers went one step further, outright satirizing the slasher with the box office hit, Scary Movie. Whether it was the familiar ground or middling reviews, Club Dread failed to recoup its budget and hasn’t achieved the same cult status.
On Pleasure Island, just off the coast of Costa Rica, washed up recording artist Coconut Pete runs a tropical resort where guests can indulge their wild sides. As the ferry arrives, new guests means more wild parties and crazy antics from resort staff. But a masked killer has joined this season’s guests and bodies quickly pile up. With no way off the island and threats to remain silent, the staff must discover the killer’s identity before they’re all dead.
Club Dread is Fun But a Very Uneven Mixing of Comedy and Horror
By and large, Club Dread understood the assignment and handles the balancing of horror and comedy quite well. Director and Broken Lizard member Jay Chandrasekhar probably hits the most right notes in the first act. That opening scene nails its slasher parody without feeling like its recycling other movies. One scene with a masked killer ‘chasing’ a resort staff member on a golf cart is subtly hilarious. While the finale feels a bit over the top, Chandrasekhar again understand the subgenre and sends it up quite well. Similar to Super Troopers and their other movies, Club Dread also benefits from an overall feeling of easygoing fun.
…Club Dread also benefits from an overall feeling of easygoing fun.
Similar to other horror comedies, and sketch comedy more generally, Club Dread is mixed stuff. When the jokes fire on all cylinders, it approaches the wild fun of Super Troopers. However, too many of the jokes fall flat or get worn into the ground too quickly through repetition. Whether it’s the ‘Machete Pete’ island legend of Kevin Hefferman’s Buddhist pacifist masseuse, some jokes land with a thud the first time. When they’re repeated ad nauseum, they don’t get any funnier. Moreover, it also doesn’t help that Scary Movie beat Club Dread to the punch. Comparisons are inevitable and Scary Movie pulls it off a bit better.
Club Dread Coasts on Affable Performances and Bill Paxton
One of the consistent highlights in Club Dread is the Broken Lizard troupe itself. Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, and Erik Stolhanske join Chandrasekhar, disappearing into completely different characters from Super Troopers. In particular, Steve Lemme’s ‘Juan Castillo’ and Stolhanske’s ‘Fun Police’ staff member ‘Sam’ deliver many of the Troupe members’ best moments. Lemme’s mispronunciation of ‘Penelope’ will never not be funny. Even if Heffernan, Chandrasekhar, and Soter’s characters are hit and miss, like the comedy itself, they’re always charming and affable. And Chandraskehar’s snotty British tennis pro manages to get a few laughs.
As Coconut Pete, a thinly disguised parody of Jimmy Buffet, Paxton is almost always the funniest part of the movie.
If there’s a joke that always lands in Club Dread it’s courtesy of Bill Paxton (Frailty). As Coconut Pete, a thinly disguised parody of Jimmy Buffet, Paxton is almost always the funniest part of the movie. And the mock Coconut Pete album covers and song lyrics are almost pitch perfect, raunchy spins on Buffet’s music while never being meanspirited. In addition to Paxton, Brittany Daniel and Jordan Ladd (Cabin Fever, Death Proof) are non-Broken Lizard cast members along for the ride. Ladd’s ‘Penelope’, something of comical red herring for the movie, is clearly having as much fun as Paxton.
Club Dread Isn’t Always Funny, But It’s a Consistently Amicable Horror-Comedy
Ultimately, Club Dread is always fun and breezy, but it’s also an undeniably mixed effort. For its first act, the jokes fly fast and hit hard with the horror mostly checking off the expected boxes for a horror-comedy. As the second act rolls around, the small handful of decent jokes keep chugging along while other gags feel increasingly strained. Neither Heffernan’s pseudo-hippie pacifist schtick or Chandrasekhar’ stuffy British tennis pro routine are funny enough to justify how often they’re re-visited. Arguably, the bigger problem are the number of jokes that just fall flat. Nonetheless, the Broken Lizard troupe are charming and fun to watch. And Bill Paxton is a blast playing a Jimmy Buffet-styled singer. It’s not consistently funny, but Club Dread is an amicable horror-comedy.