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Humor takes a vacation from ‘Club Dread’

C. Spencer Beggs | Tuesday, March 2, 2004

It seems that the comedic inspiration behind 2001’s Super Troopers went on vacation for the production of comedy troupe Broken Lizard’s much-anticipated follow-up, Club Dread.The plot of Club Dread comes out of a B-movie basement. A group of partiers arrive for a weekend of R&R – and T&A – at the never-ending booze fest Pleasure Island run by the Jimmy Buffest-esque Coconut Pete. But when employees start turning up dead with cryptic messages etched into their flesh, the staffers realize that they must find the killer before it’s too late. Booze, boobs and blood follow – but not many laughs. Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske, the five members of Broken Lizard, met at Colgate University, where they started a comedy sketch troupe called Charred Goosebreak. After college, the group made a short film for an NYU film student. In 1996, the group made their first feature length film, Puddle Crusher, which went on to become an official selection at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. The group’s second film, 2001’s shoestring budget cop spoof Super Troopers, was discovered by Fox Searchlight pictures at that year’s Sundance Film Festival and received limited national distribution, inspiring a cult following as well as pulling in over $18 million at the box office. Banking on the indie success of Super Troopers the group got a real budget from Fox and began work on Club Dread.Though much anticipated by fans, Club Dread is an unfortunate over-hyped follow-up to the underappreciated Super Troopers. One of the major problems with Club Dread is that moviegoers have seen this movie twice before and have see it done better. Club Dread doesn’t muster either the screwball zaniness of slasher spoofs like the Scary Movie series or the self-reflective ironic wit of the Scream series. Club Dread is somewhere in between, sometimes going for the gross-out gag and sometimes for deliberate absurdity.Club Dread isn’t brimming with the all-too-quotable lines that made Super Troopers a college stoner-cinema favorite. In part, this is due to the who-done-it storyline that actually requires a bit of attention from the audience and is partly due to a less than compelling script.Unlike the Scary Movie series, Club Dread is partly a real horror movie, including a number of jump-out scares and graphic images. In one scene, a decapitated head bleeding from the eyes is found revolving on a turntable while creepy, distorted music plays over the speakers. It’s hard to go from that image to laughing at one-liners. The result is a half-campy, half-morbid movie that leaves the audience unsure of whether they should be laughing or not – most will choose the latter.The Broken Lizard boys do, however, manage to demonstrate that they are versatile comic actors. Each member of the group takes a severe turn from the roles played in Super Troopers and turns in a unique performance.In the end, Club Dread looks like a cookie cutter Hollywood comedy, almost completely lacking the quirky, intensely self-serious sense of humor that rocketed Super Troopers to indie success. Hopefully it will be chalked up as a symptom of a burgeoning comedy troupe’s growing pains as they expand into full-fledged Hollywood production and corruption.