The comedy troupe Broken Lizard’s new “Club Dread” belongs to a genre that has not been explored very often: It is a true horror comedy.
It has elements that parody slasher films, a la “Scary Movie” and the “Scream” series, but it’s not really a spoof so much as it is a straightforward comedy, albeit one set in a horror plot. That Broken Lizard would even attempt such a difficult hybrid as comedy-horror takes guts, as it would have been much easier to simply make yet another slasher spoof.
The blend of yuks and yucks is not an entirely comfortable one, though. The most dangerous pitfall for a film blending genres is that the whole may be less than the sum of its parts, and indeed, “Club Dread” is less funny than a comedy and less scary than a horror. It has several genuinely hilarious sequences, but they are separated by stretches of non-comedy that, while meeting the requirements of a horror plot, are not scary or suspenseful. Being scared is such a different emotion from being amused that it’s hard for a movie to achieve true fright after it’s established an atmosphere of laughter.
The comedy works, though, when it tries to. The film is set on Pleasure Island, a resort spot near Costa Rica owned by Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), a Jimmy Buffett-ish former pop star with a few tequila-and-beach-party songs under his belt. You pay a huge amount of money, and then you spend a week on Pleasure Island, with wall-to-wall luaus, keg parties, social events and more keg parties, all presided over by Coconut Pete himself.
Where the horror comes in is that a mysterious figure in tribal garb has begun killing staff members, leaving clues to indicate the entire staff is ultimately a target. Communication to the mainland has been cut off, and the boat won’t be back to pick up the guests — who have no idea anything is wrong, and are too drunk to care anyway — for several days.
The Broken Lizard troupe members, last seen in the infectiously daft “Super Troopers” (2002) play the major roles, including Jay Chandrasekhar (also the director) as snooty tennis pro Putman, Steve Lemme as an absurdly oversexed cliff-diver named Juan, and Paul Soter as Pete’s idiot nephew and staff disc jockey Dave. M.C. Gainey also earns abundant laughs as Pete’s cantankerous, alcoholic head of security. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what usually happens to heads of security in movies about homicidal maniacs.)
I have no major objection to the film, other than that it’s not as funny as it feels like it ought to be. It made me laugh often, and occasionally very hard, and the scenes that focus heavily on the serial-killer angle pass by agreeably. It might be wise to stick with just comedy next time, though if they can pull off a good comedy-samurai film, or perhaps a comedy-zombie movie, I’d like to see it.
B- (1 hr., 43 min.; )