DEAD AND BREAKFAST (2004)
A Reassessment File by Paul McMahon – “The Distracted Critic”
Back in the early aughts, everyone and their agents were making zombie movies. DEAD AND BREAKFAST (2004) is just one that got made during this time. It called attention to itself by being the first “zombie musical.” They played it up as if a “zombie musical” was just the thing we all needed to make our lives complete.
Instead of a “musical” musical, what I remember is an average zombie story with sporadic cut-aways to a hoe-down band rhyming musical summaries about what we’d seen and what was likely to happen—a Greek Chorus in Stetsons and spurs. I shook my head when it was all over, called it a solid one and a half knife movie (back before that rating system existed), then buried it in my collection and promptly forgot about it.
We open with three couples in a Winnebago, traveling to a wedding. David (Erik Palladino, U-571, 2000) and Kate (Bianca Lawson) sit at the table. David’s face is busted up and he’s got butterfly stitches over his eye. Kate is unhappy with him for getting in a fight so soon before the wedding.
Christian (Jeremy Sisto, MAY, 2002, and WRONG TURN, 2003) is lounging on a beanbag chair while his girlfriend, Sara (Ever Carradine, GUNS FOR HIRE, 2015 and Lexi Carter in the TV show EUREKA), sits on the bed. Sara asks how far they’ve got to go.
Johnny (Oz Perkins, who’s better known as a writer, having penned THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER, 2015, and I AM THE PRETTY THING WHO LIVES IN THE HOUSE, 2016), who’s driving, says he expected to see signs thirty miles ago. His girlfriend, Melody (Gina Philips, JEEPERS CREEPERS, 2001 and JEEPERS CREEPERS III, 2017), is shocked by this revelation.
Kate grabs what she thinks are the directions he’s following, but it turns out to be a list of the roadkill they’ve passed. Apparently, Johnny’s got a sick side none of them knew about. Melody is even more shocked. They pass a sign welcoming them to Lovelock, and Sara suggests they find a place to sleep for the night.
Johnny pulls into a gas station, where a country band is playing right outside. Turns out the singer/guitar player, Randall Keith Randall (Zach Selwyn) is also the gas station attendant (note: this band also doubles as the Greek Texan Chorus). He directs Sara to a bed and breakfast nearby. Meanwhile, Christian runs into a surly drifter who bums a cigarette off him.
At the bed and breakfast, they check in. Chef Henri (Diedrich Bader, from THE DREW CAREY SHOW and NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, 2004) is obvious about the fact that he doesn’t like them, while the owner, Mr. Wise (David Carradine, from the TV show KUNG-FU and from Quentin Tarrantino’s two-part KILL BILL, who gets to act onscreen with his niece, Ever Carradine), welcomes them with a big smile and a discount.
They gather and chat in a common room, and David falls asleep in a chair. Kate leaves him there and goes off to bed. Later in the night, David wakes, wanders into the kitchen in the dark, and pulls a pie out of the refrigerator. Kate wakes, alone, and comes downstairs looking for him. She finds him sitting in the dark at the kitchen table, talking to her with his mouth full.
She turns on the light, and a few feet behind David, Henri’s bloody corpse is impaled to the wall. David screams and tries to run away, which becomes a slapstick routine of him slipping and sliding in the mess. As soon as he joins Kate’s side, someone else screams.
They run upstairs to find Sara crouched over Mr. Wise’s body. He’s had a heart attack. The phones are out, the cellphones have no bars, and David decides he’s going to take the motorcycle to get help. Christian points out that he doesn’t know how to ride a motorcycle, but David’s the “cool movie dude” and ignores this. His first attempt ends poorly.
Eventually he returns with the Sheriff (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, currently playing Negan on THE WALKING DEAD), who interrogates the Winnebago crew, not believing anything they say. His tough guy act in interrupted when his deputy falls down the stairs with the body bag containing Mr. Wise. Not long after the sheriff leaves, the deputy returns to take the keys for the Winnebago, in case they decide to skip town. Not long after they’re left alone in the bed and breakfast, they decide to head into town… but Johnny is accidentally left behind and locked out.
Johnny uses a ladder to access an open window on the top floor. Entering, he kicks over a table and opens the small wooden box that Mr. Wise was protecting. The next time we see Johnny, he isn’t Johnny anymore.
The first major difference I noticed re-watching this was that this movie was pretty funny. I don’t know why the humor didn’t register with me the first time. Such gory antics are right up my alley. Director Matthew Leutwyler was obviously inspired by Peter Jackson’s legendary BRAINDEAD (aka DEAD ALIVE, 1992). The jokes, for the most part, stem from the characters’ personalities instead of from the writer trying to “make a funny.” The musical summaries that kind of annoyed me years ago actually won me over this time. The lyrics were clever and creative, and Randall Keith Randall came across with an attitude I’d missed before.
Plus, I knew more of the actors this time around. Back in 2004, I recognized Diedrich Bader and of course David Carradine. The rest of the cast hadn’t done much of note. This time, I’d seen quite a few of them in different things, which probably helped me connect more with the film.
Makeup effects man Michael Mosher (FEAST, 2005, and PULSE, 2006) has let loose with the gore in this, coming up with some creative kills that haven’t been done a hundred times before. I was surprised to find out it was originally given an NC-17 rating, and they had to go back and re-edit to get the R-rating needed for wider release.
I’ve got to admit, I went into this one expecting it to be drudgery because that’s how I remembered it. I was mighty surprised. In fact, I’m already planning to watch it again with some of my kids. Maybe a few nephews, as well.
DEAD AND BREAKFAST original assessment: one and a half knives
DEAD AND BREAKFAST reassessment: three knives
© Copyright 2018 by Paul McMahon