'Club Dread': Dead on the Water

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 27, 2004

"Broken Lizard's Club Dread," a horror spoof set on a tropical island, is about as funny as malaria.

Broken Lizard, a five-man comedy troupe led by director and co-writer Jay Chandrasekhar, doesn't actually "create" a movie here. It merely provides reassurance to couch potatoes. The movie's designed to jog the reflexes of a generation raised on the "Scream" movies, MTV beach party specials, "Girls Gone Wild" videos and reality TV. This means topless babes, endless scenes of people partyin' down and major gore 'n' spatter.

Set on fictional Pleasure Island, Costa Rica, it's about a murder spree that ravages a beach resort catering to young adults. Presiding over the resort is Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton, apparently believing that any screen work is good work), a washed-up, Jimmy Buffett-style musician whose songs are about sex, drugs and beaches -- necessarily in that order.

His camp staffers (all played by members of Broken Lizard) include Chandrasekhar as Putman, a dreadlocked Caribbean with a forced British accent; Lars (Kevin Heffernan), a masseur whose mere touch can reduce characters to instant ecstasy; and Juan (Steve Lemme), a sexual enthusiast whose confession of bestiality will no doubt rock the house.

But there's trouble in paradise, dude. Members of the staff find themselves being picked off, one by one -- and not just picked off, mind you. They're sliced and diced, even decapitated. Who is the marauder? Could it be Machete Phil, a previous island visitor whose self-inflicted removal of a certain part of the anatomy has left him screaming till the end of time?

The story follows a familiar routine: red herrings as to who's the killer, people constantly looking for sex, drugs and rock-and-roll; and sudden moments of extreme violence. Naturally, women constantly feel the need to tear off their tops. It's hot on the island, you know?

Even by its own low-ball standards, "Club Dread" falls short. Chandrasekhar and company opt for graphic gags instead of actual, you know, comedy. The troupe's 2001 "Super Troopers," a sort of "Police Academy" caper that featured Broken Lizard as inept members of the Vermont State Police, had its moments. But in "Dread," no one seems the slightest bit motivated to work the humor. Why bother? The living on this island is too easy.

Broken Lizard's Club Dread (103 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for violence, sexual content, obscenity and drug use.

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