I think “Dead And Breakfast” is a victim of over-expectation. The pull quotes used on the trailer are full of praise, even if one or two of them are weirdly indirect – “sure to become some sort of cult classic” is an odd one. There’s a level of expectation built up (the trailer also features two moderately big names, Portia De Rossi and David Carradine, when their level of participation in the movie is barely more than those few seconds, which is a bit of a dick move) and I feel if they’d toned it down a smidge, viewers would’ve been a lot happier with what they got.
But they really give it their all. Everything is thrown at the screen, every gore effect and comedy style you can think of, and…most of it is pulled off. In terms of what the finished product is most like, I’d say it’s more “Brain Dead” than “Shaun Of The Dead”. There are a couple of straight lifts from other horror-comedies, but by and large it finds its own niche.
How many horror movies have started with a group of teenagers / young adults in a camper van? Hundreds? I imagine fans of romance movies also do this mockery with stuff like…a woman rushing into an office with her clothes all dishevelled because she had to run for the bus and her heel broke? I don’t know, I don’t watch them. Anyway, this group are driving to their friend Kelly’s wedding (De Rossi), and in amusingly perfunctory fashion, get lost on the way and end up in the small town of Lovelock. Even though they’re driving in a massive camper van and could all sleep in there (presumably the reason they picked that particular mode of transportation) they stop off at a bed and breakfast, run by Mr Wise (Carradine) with an assist from exceptionally rude French chef Henri (Diedrich Bader). Because of reasons, there’s an ancient and powerful magic box just stored on a shelf at the B&B, and when it falls off and is opened, an ancient evil spirit is released and people start getting murdered sharpish; the person in charge of the box can put a small part of someone else’s body in there (blood, hair, a finger) and then that person becomes a mindless sort-of-undead slave.
So, all hell breaks loose. Our heroes and a few friendly residents (the Sheriff, the lady in charge of the Hall Of Records) up against a horde of sort-of-zombies. A mysterious drifter, who knows all about the box, also helps out – there’s a group trapped in the B&B and a group who go to find Wise’s body so they can do some ritual to stop it all. It’s a bit tenuous, but it works. They’re forced to improvise weapons, and the blood! So much blood. Gallons of the stuff – one particular gruesome beheading drenches an entire room (bringing to mind that classic lawnmower scene in “Brain Dead”).
I’ve already mentioned some of the cast, but the rest of them are strong too. Jeremy Sisto is sort-of star Christian, the sensible-ish one; and Erik Palladino is hot-head David (Palladino and Sisto look enough alike to easily play brothers, but don’t). The female side of the camper van crew is Gina Phillips, Ever Carradine and Bianca Lawson, and all five are solid TV and movie hands. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, just pre-“Supernatural” and much bigger fame, is the Sheriff, and lovers of “Friends” will recognise Vincent Ventresca, aka Fun Bobby, as the town doctor. In a direct lift from “There’s Something About Mary”, there’s an onscreen musical narration from time to time, supplied by actor/musician Zach Selwyn – although Jonathan Richman never performed a rap song about how him and his zombie buddies are coming to eat you (the little zombie dance is another lift, though, from “C.H.U.D. 2: Bud The C.H.U.D.”)
I’ve not even mentioned the comedy yet. It’s a mix of every comic style you could think of – there’s some nice wordplay in there, lots of juxtaposition (zombies shouldn’t behave in this wacky way!), lots of situations where the wildly OTT action just becomes funny; but most of all it’s farce. Farce is a tough one to pull off alongside everything else, but they manage it, with some lovely pratfalls and visual gags.
I appreciate I like movie trivia probably more than some of you do, but “Dead and Breakfast” has some interesting examples. Credited co-writer is Billy Burke, the actor known for “Revolution” and the “Twilight” series; turns out he and Jeffrey Dean Morgan have been friends since childhood. Burke was going to play the Drifter, but got a bigger gig; Burke asked if their other childhood friend, Brent David Fraser, could play the part instead. All three have been friends with director Matthew Leutwyler since their first days in Hollywood in the early 90s, and Leutwyler must be a good guy to work for as Palladino, Burke, Morgan and Sisto have all appeared for him multiple times.
So, it’s a decent movie. Not as hilarious as it could have been, but handles the horror / comedy split better than most. Approach it with a friendly mind and you’ll have a fine time.
Rating: thumbs up