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Broken Lizard's Club Dread

To accept Broken Lizard's Club Dread (2004) as an out-and-out spoof of slasher movies might be true to the original intention, but unfair to the finished product. This occasionally proud genre has traditionally put humor first, and in abundance, resulting in some very wacky send-ups, from the old-school Student Bodies (1981), through the more recent Scary Movie series. And neither is Club Dread a straight-faced hack-fest — it was, after all, written by the engaging if unexceptional "comedy" troupe that previously brought you Super Troopers (2001). No, Club Dread fares better in company with the hybrid genre legitimized by Wes Craven's smash hit Scream (1996): the slasher film that winks at itself while it affectionately and faithfully carries out the slasher routine. Although Scream represents the popular pinnacle of this form, and effortlessly balances its laughs and thrills, its forebears like The Return of Horror High (1987, which leaned toward spoof) and Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives (1986, which was mostly slasher, but with comic moments) create a wide spectrum of possibilities. Club Dread unambitiously settles for the mediocre middle of the pack, with some amusing dressing and a few outright gags added to a ho-hum respinning of the drunk-and-horny-kids-on-a-tropical-island-stalked-by-machete-weilding-madman formula. Club Dread is Set on Coconut Pete's Pleasure Island, a Costa Rican spring break paradise hosted by Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), a half-ass has-been Jimmy Buffett-wannabe. Pete's appealingly silly crew (including the comely Brittany Daniel, along with Broken Lizard members Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar [who also directed], Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske and Steve Lemme), are hunted by a vengeful, masked psycho, who may or not be "Machete Phil," a fabled island eunuch. While the jokes in Club Dread are spread too thin and are rarely broad enough to earn it membership into the elite spoof club, it has a consistently amusing vibe, is technically solid, and features an engaging cast who acquit themselves well. It runs maybe 15 minutes too long for its own good, but even a mildly successful hybrid spoof is going to be more entertaining than most sincere attempts at pure slasher. Fox presents Club Dread in both anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan (1.33:1) on opposite sides of the disc, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Two commentary tracks are on board, one with Chandrasekhar and Stolhanske, the other with Soter, Heffernan, and Lemme. Also with a soundtrack spot. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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