What can you say about Matthew Leutwyler’s “Dead and Breakfast” except, you will either adore the heck out of it, or you will loathe it. And to help you decide, I’ll even surrender these facts: its story is idiotic, it has no real plot to speak of, and when all is said and done, it’s 80 minutes of mindless splatter comedy. Having said that, I adored the hell out of this movie from the very first frame. How can you not giggle at the prospect of a movie that features a singing gas station attendant?
“Dead and Breakfast” works for the very reason another low-budget splatter film called “Undead” didn’t. Even though they’re both geared towards the same niche audience, “Breakfast” has no unlikable characters. Even the zombies are lovable, as well as the standby country hicks. Heck, even the bullish Sheriff played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Six: The Mark”) puts a smile on your face. And when one of the hicks is played by Vincent Ventresca (late of the fabulously cancelled “Invisible Man” TV show), you just know these aren’t the usual hicks you’re used to in the last 5,000 low-budget horror films about city folk clashing with country folk.
“Dead and Breakfast” is as screwball as you’ll get. It’s essentially about a group of 20-somethings on their way to a friend’s wedding in Galveston (apparently they’re driving through Texas) that end up at a bed and breakfast in a small town for the night. This B&B just happens to be run by David Carradine (“Kill Bill”) and a stuffy French chef. Before morning arrives, both Carradine and the chef are dead, and the Sheriff suspects the kids. Ordered to remain in town until the crimes are solved, everyone gets a rude awakening when one of the friends unleashes an evil spirit that soon possesses all the townspeople. The survivors rush to the B&B for salvation, with their hope resting on a mysterious Drifter (Brent David Fraser) who is, well, sorta just drifting about for no good reason.
If you’ve read this far, you should have forgotten about taking anything about “Dead and Breakfast” seriously. It’s a very, very silly movie that just happens to also be insanely funny and creative. As soon as the zombies attack, heads get lopped off, bodyparts severed, and heads are exploding like they’re grapefruit. It’s “Evil Dead” zaniness done with practical effects. If Leutwyler and company ever used CGI, then I couldn’t tell you where. For a movie operating on a budget that couldn’t have been very high, “Dead and Breakfast” achieves some fantastic results.
As for comedy, there’s plenty of it. How about the “deer in the headlights” looks the city kids get every time they encounter the locals, including a trip to the local bar. The kids themselves, although essentially archetypes, gets some inspired skills courtesy of a wacky script. Lead Sara (Ever Carradine) turns into a zombie-fighting, weapons-making machine, creating “shot guns” out of some pipes, wrenches, and nails. Later, she takes on a house full of zombies armed only with a chainsaw. Also putting in some funny moments is Gina Philips (“Jeepers Creepers”), playing a vegan and the movie’s straight man. Or how about the Drifter character, who knows all the answers, but keeps getting himself knocked unconscious when he’s most needed.
Of course not everything about “Dead and Breakfast” works. In particular, the movie’s many interludes, where action onscreen stops for a country and western singer to launch into a song about what’s happened or is about to happen, were hit-and-miss. Sometimes the songs were funny, such as when all the zombies started chanting, “We’re coming to kill ya”, and then started line dancing outside the B&B. The other parts that didn’t really work were the one-liners Oz Perkins, playing a nerd who turns into the leader of the zombies, was given to quip. And seeing him carrying around the decapitated head of Jeremy Sisto’s character was a riot for, oh, the first 30 minutes. After that it was just beating a dead horse.
“Dead and Breakfast” is certainly one of those movies that take great inspiration from its forefathers. Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” pictures get extended homage, but you could detect a lot of the off-the-wall insanity of Peter Jackson’s earlier works as well. The gratuitous blood and guts, the exploding heads, and decapitations all make for a fun evening. That is, if you’re into this sort of stuff. But even if you were not, you’d still have to admit that Leutwyler’s film is pretty impressive given the resources he had to work with.
And most important of all, any movie that co-stars Vincent Ventresca as a country doctor who does voluntary autopsies in the name of practice is always worthwhile in my book.
Matthew Leutwyler (director) / Matthew Leutwyler, Billy Burke (screenplay)
CAST: Vincent Ventresca …. Doc Riley
Ever Carradine …. Sara
Brent David Fraser …. The Drifter
David Carradine …. Mr. Wise
Bianca Lawson …. Kate
Jeffrey Dean Morgan …. The Sheriff
Erik Palladino …. David
Oz Perkins …. Johnny
Gina Philips …. Melody
Jeremy Sisto …. Christian