hat 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.