Totally worth the risk
I really enjoy the work of comedy group Broken Lizard. You know them from their movies “Super Troopers” and “Beerfest”. They manage to use a good mixture of sophomoric and clever humor, something easier said than done. Usually, comedy movies go for one or the other. For every dick and fart joke, there's a well-crafted joke that requires some thinking. While the movies may be fun, they're not exactly heavy on plot or story. Both Super Troopers and Beerfest are straight comedy movies, so they can get away with it. What happens, though, when Broken Lizard tries to make a horror movie?
Club Dread is a 2004 comedy slasher movie staring the comedy group Broken Lizard and Bill Paxton (Tombstone, Big Love) as aging rocker Coconut Pete. Pete has created an secluded island paradise where guests are encouraged to get drunk and have sex as much as possible. Lars (Kevin Heffernan, Farva from Super Troopers) is the island's new masseur and immediately hits it off with aerobics instructor Jenny (Brittany Daniel, Joe Dirt, Skyline). They are unaware that a masked murderer has just killed three of their co-workers in the jungle and now stalks the island. The next day, the slashed body of worker Cliff is found inside a human Pac-Man maze. All communication to the mainland is cut off and their boats have been sunk. A message warns the staff that only they are being targeted. They try to continue on as if everything is normal, but the bodies begin to pile up. It is discovered that one of Coconut Pete's songs is being used as a map to kill people. Paranoia begins to spread as everyone is a suspect: Dive instructor Juan (Steve Lemme, Mac from Super Troopers), tennis instructor Putman (Jay Chandrasekhar, Ram from Super Troopers), Pete's nephew Dave (Paul Soter, Foster from Super Troopers), and “party police” Sam (Erik Stolhanske, Rabbit from Super Troopers). Even Lars and Jenny become suspects. Juan fears that the killer may also be Penelope (Jordan Ladd, Never Been Kissed, Grace) a particularly strange guest who is infatuated with him. Will Lars and Jenny be able to uncover and stop the killer before it's too late?
"Get the Windex!"
Balancing comedy and horror is never easy. Usually, comedic horror movies just go straight for the comedy and just have an outline of horror. The Scary Movie series comes to mind. If you focus on comedy too much, the horror will suffer and if you focus on horror too much, the movie isn't very funny. Club Dread focuses more on comedy, but doesn't ignore horror. Like Super Troopers and Beerfest, the comedy in Club Dread is a mixture of good timing, clever one-liners, and goofy humor. There are genuinely funny moments throughout the film which caused some legitimate belly laughs. Because the movie has to focus on horror, some of the jokes are hit and miss in the laughs department. There's nothing eye-roll worthy, but some jokes do fall a little flat. Out of the three Broken Lizard movies, Club Dread is probably the least funny, but that's because the other two are so good.
In terms of actual horror, the story isn't half bad. It's your typical slasher movie with a good dose of mystery. Director Jay Chandrasekhar mixes the genres well enough so that nothing feels out of place. The comedic acting is good throughout and even non-comedic actors like Bill Paxton and Brittany Daniel get some good laughs. Having Kevin Heffernan as the hero was an interesting choice considering how great he was as the ridiculous Rod Farva from Super Troopers. The connection between Jenny and Lars seems a little odd when looking at the two, but both actors managed to make it at least passably believable. The action is decent, but for a slasher, there is very little in the way of blood and gore. In true slasher fashion, the killer is very hard to dispose of to the point of absurdity. I know it was done for comedic effect, but I felt it hurt the horror portion of the movie. Again, it's a difficult balancing act.
Who wants to play "Human Torch"?
Mixing comedy and horror is not impossible, but it's certainly difficult. The comedy was never a concern for Club Dread, but the horror was. Some of the jokes don't work, but overall, it's still a funny movie. The horror is fairly mediocre and there is a serious lack of blood and gore for a slasher movie. The mystery is interesting enough to keep the audience engaged, though the movie did feel longer than it really was. I applaud Broken Lizard for getting out of their comfort zone and creating a movie in a difficult genre. If you're looking for laughs, Club Dread definitely has them. If you're looking for good horror, you may feel a little disappointed.