The latest effort from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe ("Super Troopers"), "Club Dread" is a comedy/horror hybrid that doesn't entirely work, yet manages to grab a few big laughs during its running time. The film takes place on Pleasure Island, a Costa Rican island owned by Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), a sort of low-rent Jimmy Buffett clone who enough cash from a hit or two to throw constant pay-to-play parties on his island, which consists of drinking and luaus day-and-night.
Unfortunately for the guests, a mysterious figure dressed up in a tribal outfit has been dispatching the staff one-by-one, with potential suspects including the hot aerobics instructor who got a role on a TV show where everyone in her way "had an accident" (Brittany Daniel), the cliff diver (Steve Lemme), the new masseur, Lars (co-writer Kevin Heffernan), Putman, the Indian/British tennis instructor, played by director Jay Chandrasekhar and others.
The only problem? All of the guests are so wasted or concerned with chasing women that no one really cares or bothers to notice the potential danger. Of course, all communication with the outside world has been cut off and there's no way off the island.
There's definitely some funny moments scattered throughout the movie, such as a sort of "Pac Man"-type tag game through a hedge maze, a bonfire on the beach that no one seems to notice is sending a message and a great deal of slapstick-style physical and verbal humor. The horror aspect of the film doesn't exactly sit well with the comedy, although the amount of comedy bits that work does build up as the film enters its second half and the film does a fine job keeping the audience guessing who's the bad guy.
The performances are pretty good, as well: Paxton is surprisingly funny as the aging hippy, Daniel is funny and engaging, while the remainder of the Lizard crew each have a few laugh-out-loud moments of their own. Overall, the picture takes a little while to get going and the comedy never blends entirely well with the horror, but once it gets moving, it builds momentum nicely. A very good follow-up from the Broken Lizard crew.
VIDEO: "Club Dread" is presented by Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan. Each edition of the film is housed on opposite sides of a dual-sided, single-layered DVD. The picture quality was excellent for the majority of the running time. Sharpness and detail were first-rate pretty consistently, with only a couple of scenes appearing a tad softer than the rest
The picture was free of nearly all of the usual flaws, displaying only a very minor compression artifact or two. Edge enhancement doesn't appear, nor do any print artifacts. The film's bright, vivid color palette appeared well-saturated throughout.
SOUND: "Club Dread" is presented by Fox in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack isn't particularly aggressive, which isn't surprising, given the film's partial comedy background and the low budget. The surrounds kick in for some horror "shock" cords and slight ambience, but their overall use is fairly minor. Audio quality was fine, as dialogue seemed well-recorded and the music sounded fairly dynamic.
EXTRAS: The DVD offers two commentaries on the widescreen version of the film: one is from director/actor Jay Chandrasekhar and actor Erik Stolhanske, while the other is from actors Kevin Henffernan, Steve Lemme and Paul Soter. Both commentaries are pretty conversational, with the participants joking around about what's going on on-screen and bouncing around stories about what happened on-set. The commentary with the three actors is a bit more entertaining though, as the three are more energetic and really throw out some sharp jokes about how scenes turned out. Aside from the commentaries, there's a soundtrack spot.
Final Thoughts: An odd mixture of straightforward horror and comedy, "Club Dread" works more often than not. Fox's DVD edition provides good audio/video quality and a few good supplemental features. Recommended.