Bad films are usually pretty unimaginative affairs, trotting out one cliche after another as it rehashes what other movies have done before; it's a given, it's what makes them bad. Which is what made watching Matthew Leutwyler's 2004 film DEAD AND BREAKFAST even more disappointing, a stylishly-directed movie with reasonably well-drawn characters and a generous helping of gore that still fails to come alive.
In a set-up recalling the glory days of '80s teens-in-peril flicks, a RV of chemically-indulgent youths (among them Ever Carradine and a less annoying than usual Jeremy Sisto) get waylaid in the Texas countryside en route to a friend's wedding. Staying at a run-down bed and breakfast run by Ever's uncle David, they find themselves in a bind when the elder Carradine dies of a heart attack and somebody murders the b&b's chef (the criminally underused Diedrich Bader) during the night. Exactly what type of bind is hard to explain--though we've got a mysterious drifter on hand to help--but it's involves some hokum about spirit possession and raising/controlling the dead.
DEAD AND BREAKFAST seems to want to be a good movie--it least aspires to be something other than a cookie-cutter gore flick--yet for some reason lacks the spark that powers an entertaining film. Much of the blame can be put on a needlessly convoluted story littered with far too many dead spots and relies on comedy that's too strained to be funny. (Having said that, Erik Palladino gives one of the greatest double-takes ever during a key moment.) Leutwyler shows off a little directorial flair to keep things moving, like the comic-style drawings that serve as transitions (which didn't bring much to the picture, but I liked anyway) and a Greek chorus/narrator in the form of a rockabilly singer (which starts off unobtrusive, then quickly grows tiresome). Like most teen-centric horror films, the characters aren't particularly endearing yet Leuwyler manages to make this unlikeable cast tolerable, though I would've preferred he gave lead actress Carradine a little more depth and charisma.
The film's second half has plenty of the red stuff, though many of the kill-scenes either lack tension or echo other films too much (like a hedge-clipper scene ripped off from THE BURNING) to be wholly satisfying; the film's climax really wants to be an operatic display of over-the-top bloodshed like DEAD ALIVE or THE EVIL DEAD 2 but just doesn't have the oomph to pull it off. (I will say I liked Palladino's self-decapitation by chainsaw.) And though I can forgive Leutwyler for not making his film particularly scary--though Oz Perkins as the leader of the recently reanimated is admirably creepy, despite coming off as a third-rate Jim Carrey--he deserves to be flogged in public for making his zombies linedance during the climactic showdown.