On a tropical island paradise near Costa Rica, two of the holidaymakers from the nearby resort run by Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton) are gallivanting through the jungle. The male holidaymaker just wants to get high and get laid, but the female is concerned that they are being watched by a shadowy figure in the bushes. A shape who they think is the watcher turns out to be a native idol, but suddenly they are joined by another girl who makes them jump. All three venture into an ancient tomb which they cheerfully desecrate, but before they can get friendlier with each other, the watcher emerges from the dark and hacks at them with a machete - yes, there's a killer on the island!
Club Dread was the second film comedy from the comic troupe Broken Lizard, after their send-up of the police, Super Troopers. Written by the team, it takes the not particularly original idea of a spoof horror movie, this one a parody of the stalk and slash genre, and fills it with broad humour to create a not enormously successful result. Not an enormously successful as a comedy, anyway, but as a basic slasher it is surprisingly effective. The characters are not exactly the savvy teens of the original Scream, there's not much post modern here, but the type you'd find in a slasher of the eighties - or the typical teen comedy of the eighties, for that matter.
Musician Coconut Pete is a survivor of the seventies who is enjoying an extended retirement at his own resort, putting on the odd concert for the tourists and generally relaxing. His staff are a bunch of misfits mostly looking for casual sex and recreational drugs, not much different from the punters, but all have been insulted by the trio we saw killed in the pre-credits sequence - one of them could have a motive for killing them. Among their number is Putman (the director Jay Chandrasekhar), the tennis coach who sports a daft English accent for comic effect, Jenny (Brittany Daniel), one of the organisers, Sam (Erik Stolhanske) head of the "fun police" who takes his post seriously when the bodies start to pile up, and Lars (Kevin Heffernan) the new boy, a masseur with expert technique.
For the most part, the killings are not played for laughs, with only the occasional funny moment such as a victim trying to get away on a motorised cart, only to find it runs at walking pace. The psycho's weapon of choice is a machete, and the mystery person dresses as a native witch doctor to keep their identity hidden until the last twenty minutes. There is imagination at work as we see when one of the tourist games involves the staff dressing up as characters from Pac-Man and playing a life size version of the old computer game only for the killer to gatecrash the party. A message is left to the staff, they are told not to let on to the holidaymakers that their lives are in danger, so they have to keep it quiet (not that the murders abate when they do keep their mouths closed).
The boats are set adrift and everyone is trapped until a body washes up on the shore of Costa Rica, and two police inspectors arrive on the island. This looks like progress until they are blown up, and now that Pete's security man from his old tours has been dispatched also, the staff have to work out who the culprit is themselves. As in the traditional slashers, everyone has a motive so everyone is a suspect, and the script emphasises the confusion to jokey effect. Although it raises a few laughs, Club Dread is better approached as a horror instead of a comedy, because it's gory and keeps its revelation hidden until the very end - seasoned fans might feel a little nostalgic watching this. The funniest joke is kept to the finale with its variation on the "the psycho's dead - oh no he isn't" set up, but until then the film is likeable enough, if too straightforward for its own good. Music by Nathan Barr.
American comedy director, actor and writer and a member of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. Directed four successful Broken Lizard comedies - Paddle Cruiser, Super Troopers, Club Dread and Beerfest. Chandrasekhar's big screen version of The Dukes of Hazzard was released in summer 2005.