Halloween White Elephant: Club Dread (2004)

Posted by Peter Hall - October 20th 2011 @ 10:00 am

From JC–“I assigned Peter CLUB DREAD because I think it’s an entertaining Broken Lizard film, and an ok horror film, but one that is overall pretty fun to watch as either straight horror or straight
comedy.”

Club Dread isn’t a guilty pleasure of mine. That’s because there’s no guilt involved, it’s all pleasure. I love this movie, no qualifiers. I imagine JC had no idea that was the case when he assigned it to me. There’s no way he knew that I used to drive from Florida to Virginia listening to both of its commentary tracks or that this is the kind of movie that I put on whenever I need cheering up (I’ve easily seen it at least a dozen times) or that I periodically find myself singing Piña Colada-burg when no one is around or that once in a blue moon I’ll turn to my wife and say, “Peen-a-lope? What kind of name is Peen-a-lope?”*

 

That wasn’t always the case though. I remember walking out of Club Dread on opening night thinking that it was just okay and that it was no Super Troopers. On DVD, however, it just clicked. I found myself turning to it when looking to put on a random movie in the background. I’m pretty sure every piece of Ikea furniture I’ve ever assembled has been assembled to the sounds of the staff of Coconut Beach Resort getting slashed to pieces. Before long it evolved from background noise to active enjoyment. Now it’s a movie I know by heart.

Why exactly has it stood the test of time with me? That’s a damned good question and I wish I knew what the answer was. Maybe it’s because it’s the only movie in the history of the planet to feature a death scene that uses Halloween’s signature behind-the-mask POV to kill a guy in a giant pear costume who is playing a real life game of Pacman. Maybe it’s because because this is one of Bill Paxton’s funniest roles. Maybe it’s because it’s got a sexy location and a sexy cast. Maybe it’s because all of the Broken Lizard members are firing on all cylinders. Or maybe it’s because the shot of the blonde at the beginning of the movie trying to use the blade of a machete as life support makes me cringe more than most gags in “real horror movies.”

There’s just so damned much to have fun with in Club Dread. I love the jokes, big and small. I love the ridiculous ending. I love who the killer is and why he does it. Basically, I love that if you completely removed all the comedy from the film, this is a script and premise that could have easily existed as an ’80s slasher, and that’s just not something that most slasher comedies understand. Most horror comedies are too post-modern, too self-aware and too blatant in their single-minded attempt to deliver exactly what they think the audience wants, which is just boobs and blood. Of course, Jay Chandrasekhar’s film has both boobs and blood, but it has them in small portions that are doled out at all the right times. It’s a surprisingly restrained movie, that’s never trying to be ironic or indulgent.

And yet, I’m well aware that my love for Club Dread isn’t shared, and I can even see why it isn’t. It’s long (especially if you watch the extended cut with the whole police investigation sub plot that’s never even hinted at in the theatrical cut) and it’s one note, so if you’re not digging that one note, it’s all going to feel excruciatingly long. But, if you’re on board with Coconut Pete and the gang, it just works. And best of all, it works even better every time.

*– The only other time I’ve found myself regularly quoting something from a commentary track was when I decided to name this website “Horror’s Not Dead,” and, oddly enough, Club Dread is also mentioned in the Cabin Fever commentary track that inspired the creation of this site (Roth feigns being pissed off at “those Broken Lizard guys” for getting Jordan Ladd to take her top off when she wouldn’t do it for him).

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