“It’s like a bad horror movie … only worse!”
Never has a film’s tagline been more appropriate than the above line. “Dead & Breakfast” is a film that tries so hard to be funny that any sense of humor or comic timing goes right out the window. This is a film that appears to have been made by that geeky kid whom everyone’s had in their classroom at some point in their school-going experience. You know who I’m talking about, he’s the dork who wore “Star Trek” or “Dawn of the Dead” t-shirts and spent every moment of every period cracking obnoxious jokes that only he laughed at.
Case in point: throughout the film we are treated to brief interludes in which a rockabilly singer/songwriter sings about important or upcoming narrative moments. Think the band from “There’s Something About Mary,” only these interludes are obnoxious, unnecessary, and do a damn good job of prolonging the inevitable, which, in this case, is the closing credits of this terrible movie.
The film’s eclectic group of protagonists meet up with the rockabilly singer, Randall Keith Randall, when they stop off in the small town of Lovelock. While en route to a friend’s wedding, the film’s six “heroes” find themselves lost and decide to stop off in the small town for the night so they can get their bearings. After firing off a few incredibly bad jokes, Randall Randall suggests a quaint bed and breakfast in town.
Run by a cranky Frenchman (wonderfully played by Diedrich Bader) and a mysterious quiet man (David Carradine), the bed and breakfast seems like a cozy, if not odd, place to rest. But things quickly go from wacky to worse when the Frenchman is found murdered and the quiet man dies of a heart attack. Once the police are thrown into the mix, the sheriff confiscates their keys and forbids them from leaving town until the murder is solved.
At this point in the film, we’re introduced to a brief murder mystery in which clues and red herrings are thrown out, all of which distract the viewers with its innate mediocrity and ham-fisted jokes. Seriously, the jokes in this film are so bad they make Soupy Sales’s petty one-liner seem like refined Groucho Marx satirical jabs.
Once blood has been spilled and the town’s astute police are entered into the equation, we’re introduced to a mysterious stranger and an equally enigmatic Chinese box. When one of the stragglers discovers the box, he is turned into the undead and, as long as he has possession of the box, he can insert someone’s hair, blood, or flesh into the box and turn them into a zombie. From here the film devolves into a painful attempt at a witty zombie and, although there’s plenty of gore to be seen, the film becomes an uninspired ode to Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, and George A. Romero.
Keeping the “humor” thread alive, at one point the film takes a turn so staggering, so incredibly unfunny that I actually turned away from the television. When Randall Keith Randall and his rockabilly band become zombies, they, along with dozens of other zombies, camp outside of a house in which the film’s “heroes” has locked themselves. While waiting, Randall and his band—and remember, at this point they are zombies—actually break into a song and the zombies standing around knock off a choreographed, “Thriller” type dance number.
Mixing horror with comedy has always been a tricky feat. While some filmmakers—Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi, to name but two—manage to pull it off with spectacular ease, other filmmakers are less apt, churning out a hackneyed mix of uninspired horror and misfired jokes.
Writer/Director Matthew Leutwyler, whose horror comedy “Dead & Breakfast” played to packed houses in a few film and horror festivals, falls into the latter category and takes the low road in his low budget zombie comedy and manages to misfire scene after scene, joke after joke, kill after kill for the film’s excruciating 88 minutes.