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2004, dir. Matthew Leutwyler
88 min, Rated R.
Starring: Ever Carradine, Erik Palladino, Bianca Lawson, Jeremy Sisto

Review by Noel Wood

When you're dealing with a film genre that involves dead people coming to life and eating the flesh of the living, it's ironic that it's so hard to take most of the films in it seriously. I mean, that sounds like pretty heavy duty serious shit. I don't think I'd be chuckling if I turned on the radio tomorrow and heard reports about flesh-eating legions of the undead rising from graves left and right, would you?

Fortunately, the movies make it a little easier to laugh at the thought of mindless killing machines chowing down on brains. That's why we get such fare as last year's excellent Shaun of the Dead and today's subject, Dead and Breakfast, a zomedy featuring several people you've heard of (all for five seconds at a time.) In actuality, this isn't really so much a zombie spoof as it is another entry into the splatter comedy subgenre, which brought us some of the finest films of Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi.

In the tradition of approximately 34,642 other low-budget horror flicks, this film begins with a group of twentysomethings heading across some random stretch of countryside in their RV. At least this time there's a reason, as they have a wedding to attend (random five second cameo: Portia de Rossi as the bride) and the maid of honor is on board. They stop to fill up the gas tank and run in to a singing gas station attendant, who from this point on narrates the movie with song. He points them to the only hotel type place in this sleepy little town (which makes no sense, because they're in a goddamn RV and there's plenty of them to sleep in shifts, but I guess the movie would be less interesting if they conveniently followed simple logic and actually made it to their destination.)

They make it to the Bed and Breakfast on the edge of town, where the French-speaking chef (random five second cameo: Diedrich Bader) and the owner (random five second cameo: David Carradine) both wind up dead before we even really get to know them. The local yokel Sheriff suspects foul play and keeps the kids from leaving town, and then all heck starts breaking loose. Through some unnecessary plot elements, a drifter's magical wooden box is opened and the goofy cousin of the bride-to-be winds up becoming the leader of the town's zombie invasion.

The zombies are created a little differently than what we're used to -- some sort of sample of a person (hair, blood, etc.) gets put in the magic box and suddenly their soul goes evil. The zombies aren't consistent, though...some of them seem pretty coherent (the main one, especially, but he is the leader, so I can give him a pass) while some act pretty traditional with the whole lurching and moaning thing. They do like to dismember their victims and dine on their flesh, so they're zombie enough for me.

Anyway, most of the town eventually winds up in zombie mode, and the only way to relieve them of their zombiedom is to blow their heads off. Our heroes wind up facing insurmountable odds, and before long, Jeremy Sisto's head is ripped off and being used as a hand puppet and Erik Palladino goes all evil and hacks up his girlfriend. To fight the zombies, the protagonists fashion jerry-rigged weapons from lead pipe and shotgun shells (thanks, of course, to the Macguyver-like skills of Sara (Ever Carradine, David's daughter, and explanation of why Bill managed to show up just to get toasted here.)

The cleverest part of the film is the musical narration. Zach Selwyn, who plays the singing narrator Randall Keith Randall and Brian Vander Ark of the Verve Pipe composed the songs and score, which help keep the film lively and original. The songs start off as your traditional so-lonesome-i-could-cry honky tonk and end up in full hick-hop mode by the end. Randall even joins the cast of zombies by the film's end, leading his fellow living dead into a "Thriller"-worthy line dance in one sequence.

While nothing groundbreaking, Dead and Breakfast is a decent enough way to kill an hour and a half. Most of the gags work, and the gore is more than satisfactory for a film in this subgenre. It certainly wasn't the best film of its kind, but I'd recommend it to any fan of horror comedy any day of the week. And the fact that it has decent zombies in it is an instant plus.

Rating: Three out of five Brains.


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