Dead & Breakfast (2004) 1 brain1 brainhalf brain

Ah, the Carradines. Where would budget horror be without them? In Dead and Breakfast David Carradine passes the torch to the next generation: his niece, Ever Carradine. Checking IMDB, I see that Martha Plimpton is related to the Carradines. Huh. Maybe Martha is like Nicholas Cage, the Coppola in disguise, and wants to make it on her own. But I digress. Ever Carradine is one of the heroines in this tale of young, partying twenty-somethings on the way to a wedding. They get stuck in a small town when the owner of their bed and breakfast (the elder Carradine) turns up dead. He has an evil spirit in a mysterious box that possesses the excruciatingly straight-laced Johnny (played by Oz Perkins, son of Anthony), who uses it to create an army of zombies to destroy the town. The young folks team up with the sheriff (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and a mysterious drifter (Brent David Fraser) to stop the zombies and put the evil spirit back in the box.

Dead and Breakfast is supposed to be a horror comedy, but it's not nearly as funny as it tries to be. The young hipsters are mostly annoying, the jokes at the expense of the small-town locals are sort of obvious, and the writing doesn't really have a sense of comic timing. There are a few chuckles here and there, but mostly it didn't quite work for me. I have to give writer/director Matthew Leutwyler credit for a creative format, though. Throughout the film there are cuts to a series of comic-book style drawings of what's going on in the film while a singing cowboy narrates, and then it cuts back to the live action again. The songs aren't going to be on the radio anytime soon, but they're sort of funny and are certainly better than the labored expository dialog that would probably have been the alternative. Leutwyler also manages to come up with a new way to make zombies, although the mysterious drifter, who seems to know what's going on, keeps insisting that "they're not zombies." However, they look like zombies, and move like zombies, and you stop them by destroying the brain, so I don't think we need to quibble over semantics.

There was potential in this film (it even has cameos from Portia de Rossi and Diedrich Bader), but it never really engaged me, and the actors were a bit too self-conscious about trying to be funny, bad-ass, cool, or whatever. The film did have excellent effects and fight sequences, though, and it moved along well enough that I was never wishing it was over, but at the same time when it was done I wasn't wishing there was more.