DEAD AND BREAKFAST (2004)
On their way to a wedding, a caravanning group of friends spend the night in a bed and breakfast in a tiny hick town, run by Robert Wise (David Carradine in a cameo appearance). But when the inn's chef is brutally murdered that same night and Wise has a heart attack that sends him straight to the morgue, the group are forced by the sheriff to stay in the town. Wise wasn't just an innkeeper, as unlucky Johnny finds out when he unlocks an angry spirit that Wise had kept in a small box. Now possessed by the spirit, Johnny begins a murderous rampage through the town, and turning the hillbilly townsfolk into an army of possessed zombies.
The rest of Johnny's friends, along with the sheriff and a local drifter that just happens to know all about Wise's forays into the spirituality and magic, board themselves up in the bed and breakfast to make their stand against Johnny. And the only way to stop him to take one of Wise's bones, sharpen it down into a stake, and plunge it through Johnny's heart!
With both Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson now transformed into "respectable" filmmakers, there has been a lull in truly outrageous splatstick comedy as of late. And as for horror-musical movies? They have been few and far between. Enter Matthew Leutwyler, the director and co-writer for this horror-comedy narrated via country-bluegrass-rockabilly numbers. It is "horror" only because of its dealing with the possessed and countless gory murders, but this is really just pure slapstick self-aware comedy filled with one-liners and one set-up situation after another to see just how much goo and grue can be splashed across the screen at one time!
The ensemble cast is filled with a few recognizable names and "hey I know that face" television actors. The aforementioned Carradine plays it safe with his current KILL BILL / Yellowbook.com warrior monk persona, before getting wiped out in the first fifteen minutes and is replaced by a none-too-convincing stand-in dummy corpse. Erik Palladino takes up the role of the male bad-ass while Ever Carradine (yes, she's David's neice) falls into the heroine role and chainsaw wielding extraordinaire, while Oz Perkins completely hams it up as the possessed Johnny. Buffy fans will also catch Bianca Lawson in the meek and timid "vegan" role. Everyone gives great go-for-broke performances that won't get them any accolades, but proves without a shadow of a doubt that everyone is having fun!
The surprise performance comes from musician/actor Zach Selwyn as the guitar-strumming narrator who also wrote the majority of the songs. The lyrics and tunes are quirky and catchy, and even when he becomes possessed continues to belt out tune after tune with his hillbilly back up band, with the lyrics twisting into something you'd find on a Nekromantix or Cramps album. It gives the film just the little bit of extra to help set it apart and in your memory.
So, you've got your television cast, your extra dash of quirk, but what about the "ick"? Well effects artists Michael Mosher and Richard Redlefsen (who both have an impressive resume in horror and non-horror) bring on one in-camera practical-effects gag after another with plenty of tried and true head-explosions and decapitations. Thirty-four gallons of blood were used during the production, with over four gallons dedicated to a single decapitation by chainsaw! Its all kept on the lighter side though, as characters slip-n-slide through the spilled blood and possessed Johnny spends a good portion of his screen time talking to a head like a ventriloquist. For the blood equals funny crowd, this one is hard to top.
Leutwyler sprinkles some none-too-secret nods to his predecessors as well throughout the film. Carradine's character is named for the famous horror director, an EVIL DEAD poster is seen briefly in a closet, and riffs on famous horror murders are directly lifted (take it as homage or unoriginal ripoff) to keep his apple of a movie not far from the splatter tree.
Twenty years ago, REDNECK ZOMBIES was the go-to film for undead hillbilly hi-jinx. This movie certainly takes the crown now for your annual hellbilly hoedown, and its a perty entertaining movie for us north of the Mason-Dixon line as well.