Dead and Breakfast: Unrated Edition (DVD)

When you “Mr. Leeman,” I thought you said “the linen.”

“When it comes to the town of Lovelock,
Our nightlife ain’t so blazing hot,
And now that I’ve given it some thought,
The B&B ain’t exactly no honeymoon spot,
I hope them young’uns won’t be surprised,
To meet that creepy Mr. Wise,
Some say you can see it in his eyes,
As if his soul’s been paralyzed,
And as sure as that mornin’ sun will rise,
Most guests leave that place traumatized.”
—Randall Keith Randall (Zack Selwyn)

Six friends on a road trip stop off in a small town in the middle of nowhere to spend the night. But it’s not a relaxing night, because they instantly grow suspicious about the bed and breakfast’s mysterious owner (David Carradine, Kill Bill: Volume 2) who’s clearly hiding some dark secret. Before you know it, a grisly murder is committed, and our heroes are stranded in town, accused of the crime. That’s when the zombies show up.

Dead and Breakfast does something I thought I’d never see again—it adds a creative new twist to the exhausted genre of the zombie movie. The villain has an ancient box, see, and if he puts a piece of your body—such as a strand of hair or a drop of blood—inside this box, then you become a zombie. Kind of like Gattaca, except not. It’s a simple idea, but it adds just enough of a new element to keep the plot suspenseful and to keep viewers surprised.

As far as characters go, what we’ve got here are the standard horror movie stock types. There’s the tough guy (Erik Palladino, U-571), the smart girl (David Carradine’s daughter Ever Carradine, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), the shy girl (Gina Philips, Jeepers Creepers), the weird guy (Oz Perkins, Secretary), the bitchy girl (Bianca Lawson, Kendra from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and the cool guy (Jeremy Sisto, Six Feet Under). And yet it works, thanks to the enthusiasm of the actors. Each performer knows his or her role, and makes the most of it. This is hardly a character-driven drama, but the actors are talented and smart enough to add a lot of little touches, making their roles unique. Additionally, a few reliable character actors show up in small roles, including Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development), Vincent Ventresca (The Sci-Fi Network’s The Invisible Man) and Diedrich Bader (Office Space). Also worth mentioning is actress/producer Miranda Bailey, who makes her small role as a records clerk the stuff of comic relief dreams.

A lot of filmmakers attempt to combine jokes with frights, and the results are often varied. But here, writer/director Matthew Leutwyler (This Space Between Us) manages a nice balance between the comedy and the carnage. The most extreme example is early in the film, when a character comes across a mutilated dead body, and then barely manages to stay on his feet while slipping on the blood all over the floor. This could easily have been stupid or hammy, but instead both the director and the actor know when to bring on the funny, and when to rein it in as the story calls for it. The mood here is over the top without being too over the top, if that makes any kind of sense.

And then, when the zombie attack starts in full, it’s gorehound heaven. Heads explode, shotgun wounds burst, and stabbings, stabbings, stabbings. The red stuff is everywhere, and the creators aren’t shy about showing it off at every opportunity. It’s also to their credit that the many, many death scenes are continually creative, rather than just repeating the same type of kill over and over, as happens in some slasher movies. The movie is light on suspense or dramatic tension, but it’s certainly a wild ride.

Despite the low budget and rushed production schedule, the picture here is clean and sharp, with no defects seen. Colors are bright and vivid, with deep black levels. The 5.1 sound is excellent, especially when the pseudo-country soundtrack kicks in. By contrast, the 2.0 track is nowhere as good, often sounding flat and tinny. The most substantive extras here are the two commentaries. The first features Leutwyler, actors Erik Palladino and Zach Selwyn, and special effects supervisor Michael Mosher. The second brings back Leutwyler and Palladino, adding actors Ever Carradine, Oz Perkins, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played the sheriff. Although the commentaries get a little to self-congratulatory at times, they also offer plenty of behind the scenes trivia and humorous anecdotes. The other extras are some deleted scenes, a blooper reel, a poster and still gallery, and trailers for some upcoming Anchor Bay releases.

It’s not going to be mistaken for an art house film any time soon. Dead and Breakfast is a cheesy horror flick, and makes no pretension about it. It’s not going to inspire long dialogues about subtle themes and symbolic imagery. At a fast-paced 88 minutes, all the movie wants to do is entertain, and that’s what it does.

Dead and Breakfast is why we love low budget horror movies. Put it on your shelf next to Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive.

The Verdict

Not guil…Aaahh!!!

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