DEAD & BREAKFASTMOVIE REVIEW
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Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
DEAD & BREAKFAST is a film that knows what we know about horror movies, and uses that knowledge to its advantage.
Things start off in a rickety RV, traveling by night in the middle of nowhere. Piloting the RV are five twenty/thirty-somethings, including Kate (Bianca Lawson: BIG MONSTER ON CAMPUS, BONES), Christian (Jeremy Sisto: WRONG TURN, THE THIRST), David (Erik Palladino: THE THIRST, BURIED), Sara (Ever Carradine: EUREKA [TV]), and Johnny (Oz Perkins: PSYCHO II, WOLF, STAR TREK ). The five are headed to a wedding in Galveston, Tx, and they're lost.
Young people: check.
Lost on road in the middle of nowhere: check.
The wedding-goers are all good friends of the bride, except Johnny (Perkins), who's her cousin and hasn't previously met the other four. Johnny's a bit creepy. He counts the road kill he drives by so he can say a prayer for it later. But he's harmless enough.
The four stop at a gas station that seems too old and rusty to actually have any gas, but it does have a four piece band outside (played by Zachariah and the Lobos Rivers) that plays us an expositional folk ditty, which becomes an accoustical recurring theme with lead singer Zach Selwyn throughout the film. At the gas station, they also run into The Drifter (Brent David Fraser: CLASS OF 1999, BROKEN VESSELS), who is as quiet and mysterious as his name may suggest, and who disappears back into the darkness after bumming a cigarette, which he says he doesn't intend on lighting (he's mysterious, ok?).
Back on the road, they soon arrive at what seems to be a bed and breakfast, which, because of the film's title, we know they're going to stop and sleep at.
The house's stereotypical French servant (Diedrich Bader) is upset when he answers the door and sees David (Palladino), who's popped one pill too many, relieving himself in a bush in the front lawn. But he lets them inside. He introduces them to the owner of the joint, Mr. Wise, played by the legendary David Carradine (DEATH RACE 2000, KILL BILL [both]).
Mr. Wise shows Sara (real-life niece of David Carradine) a mystical box that he meditates in front of, which seems odd, and then the subject is dropped. During this time, the other four are once again irritating the French servant, who by now seems like a good candidate for our eventual killer.
After everybody goes to sleep, David sneaks into the house's kitchen and finds a fresh pie in the refrigerator. He sits down and takes a bite, just before two of his friends flick the lights on and the French servant's butchered body is discovered, pinned to the wall. Guess he won't be the killer, after all. David freaks out and slips around in the servant's blood for a comically long time.
At this exact same moment, Mr. Wise has a heart attack and dies in front of his strange box. The youngsters find his body, and then the movie does something entirely unexpected.
It cuts to the following day. And, with this occurrence, the movie suddenly goes from being another needless clone of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and into something quite different. Something original.
The Sheriff (Jeffery Dean Morgan: WATCHMEN, JONAH HEX, THE RESIDENT) inspects the murder scene the following morning, and takes the keys to the RV, claiming that all five wedding goers must remain in town until his investigation is complete. Sure, this seems entirely unconstitutional, but hey, it's a small Texas town. Anything can happen.
I went into this film with no expectations whatsoever, and was pleased to find a flick at the very highest end of straight to DVD horror movies. The acting is cheesy, but perfectly effective for the tongue in cheek tone found here. The Sheriff has some truly great one liners, such as "Well, ain't you about as handy as a pocket on a shirt." Especially interesting was Oz Perkins's transition from a shy, wooden personality, to the quick witted, possessed-by-evil leader of the demon townspeople. The film may be worth catching for his fantastic performance alone.
The original soundtrack by Zachariah and the Lobos Rivers is pretty fantastic, although jarring on a few occasions when the film would halt for yet another expositional song. The lyrics are very funny, however, and Zach Selwyn manages to keep his charisma level at a steady high, even after his character of Randall Keith Randall is possessed (but continues to sing along).
Another high mark here is the fantastic and plentiful amounts of gore. From forty minutes on, the blood is flying, and flying strong. Rolling heads, chainsaws, crude shotguns fashioned from old steel piping, shovels-turned-hatchets; it's got all the bloody stuff you could want, and it's all done surprisingly well.
The film opens with a nice black and white comic panel sequence that perfectly set the lighthearted tone of the film, but the transitional comic panels found scattered throughout the rest of the film quickly felt needlessly gimmicky.
In fact, my main complaints about DEAD & BREAKFAST are in regards to its needless gimmicks and unnecessary comedy. It seemed as if every time my blood pressure began to rise, some whacky trumpets or goofy marching music would kick and completely pull the punches. If these moments had been truly funny, I wouldn't have minded them as much, but most of them fell flat and failed to warrant their accompanying buzz kill.
It was almost as if Co-Writer and Director Matthew Leutwyler (UNEARTHED), filmed it as a straight faced horror film, and attempted to tweak SHAUN OF THE DEAD out of it in the editing room. Or maybe he was just a bit afraid all along to let things get too scary, but this would seem to contradict all the glorious gore the film gives us. Either way, it's always a shame to see a potentially terrifying horror movie ruined by a failed attempt to include a light-hearted aspect. Sometimes it's okay to just keep a straight face, and to take your tongue out of your cheek for a bit.
Also, as a small, small complaint, there were some plot holes a mile wide in this sucker. But, with a late night cable horror film, I think this is pretty much expected to be the case. So, no biggie.
Despite my complaints, I had a good time overall throughout DEAD & BREAKFAST and, while it failed to deliver the goods for me in the tension department, it managed to make up for it by generally being a lot of fun to watch. I give it three Shriek Girls.
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