Dead & Breakfast
dir. Leutwyler
Opens Fri Aug 26
Hollywood Theatre

You've heard it all before: Group of semi-likeable teens gets stuck in a small town where something seems amiss; night falls, and soon afterward zombies/werewolves/vampires/aliens (take your pick) attack, at which point said group of semi-likeable teens has to fight their way through the town in the hopes of surviving the night.

That's exactly what happens in Dead & Breakfast (so actually, I guess you've pretty much already seen the movie). What separates D&B from most other horror films, however, is it's more of a comedy than a scary movie; aware of his unoriginal concept, director/writer Matthew Leutwyler relies on jokes over shocks. (Not to mention a few outta-left-field cameos: David Carradine, Portia de Rossi, and that annoying dumb guy from Drew Carey all make inexplicable appearances.)

And sure, D&B isn't scary, but it isn't that funny, either. There are plenty of clever ideas—a narrator/troubadour (a character that's swiped from There's Something About Mary, but is still pretty entertaining), a gleefully immature use of cartoonish gore, and character actors who make D&B's characters more defined and personable than any teenage horror film characters have a right to be. But for everything that D&B does right, it does something wrong: Its script takes too long to get going, the cast's comic timing is spotty at best, and there's a reliance upon too-easy hillbilly jokes and buckets of fake-looking blood (instead of things that'd be more entertaining—like, say, funny hillbilly jokes or buckets of real-looking blood). By the time one of the many self-aware characters quips, "This is like a bad horror movie," the line feels more accurate than tongue-in-cheek.

In the end, it's just kind of a mess, albeit a vaguely entertaining one. (How can you not enjoy a horror flick that includes the inevitable chainsaw-enabled blood-spurting scene, but also doesn't shy away from a faux-hiphop musical number?) But as clever and fun as a gore-happy comedy sounds, Dead & Breakfast is a little too uneven, and way too self-aware—unfortunately, the film's never as good as its concept, nor is it nearly as clever and funny as it thinks it is.