A stab at more commercial genre terrain after the Amerindie quirky comedy of his first two features ("The Space Between Us," "Road Kill"), Matthew Leutwyler's "Dead and Breakfast" offers plenty of splat with its slapstick. But this zombie yukfest is no more sophisticated than its nail-on-head title -- making it a joke no smarter than the movies it riffs on.

A stab at more commercial genre terrain after the Amerindie quirky comedy of his first two features (“The Space Between Us,” “Road Kill”), Matthew Leutwyler’s “Dead and Breakfast” offers plenty of splat with its slapstick. But this strenuous zombie yukfest is no more sophisticated than its nail-on-head title — making it a joke no smarter than the movies it riffs on. Recent success of “straight” undead pics “28 Days Later” and “Dawn of the Dead” should help ancillary sales, though as “Broken Lizard’s Club Dread” just proved, a lowbrow horror spoof sans stars or critical favor might as well bypass the bigscreen.

A rented RV bearing the usual assortment of annoying cannon-fodder hotties to a wedding gets off-track, and must spend the night at a B&B in hick burg Lovelock. (Strangely, no one thinks to sleep in the RV.) While others are off experiencing local color, dweeb Johnny (Oz Perkins) accidentally opens a box that holds captive some ancient evil or other, instantly turning him into the leader of the town’s fast-growing zombie horde. After a barn-dance massacre, survivors barricade themselves in the B&B.

Leutwyler aims for the tongue-in-cheek freneticism that made the “Evil Dead” pics and Peter Jackson’s “Dead Again” both scary and hilarious. But those films had wit, a quality sorely lacking in the sophomoric gags here. Complete with a faux-country troubadour who comments on the action in song, “Dead and Breakfast” is a bit too much like the party boor who laughs harder than anyone else at his own lame jokes. There’s a lot of energy, but it’s awfully imitative of those prior pics’ gonzo camera acrobatics, to an end generally more trying than inspired. Combination of pratfalls, plentiful gore FX, and smug condescension toward country types (though these yokels look like they hail from Santa Monica Blvd.) will no doubt play better after a few beers.

Playing various routinely exaggerated stereotypes, cast doesn’t have much to work with, and doesn’t contribute much, either. Beheaded early on, Jeremy Sisto appears so bored you might think him dead from the start. David Carradine also figures briefly to no particular gain as the B&B’s cagey proprietor. Feature could use a lot more of the skit-style comic flair flagged by Diedrich Bader as an incongruous French chef (who, natch, is also killed off after a few scenes).

Comic-book graphics between sequences only underline pic’s air of wink-wink superiority toward the genre it’s not quite sharp enough to actually satirize. All tech aspects are smoothly accomplished, however.

Dead and Breakfast

Production

An Ambush Entertainment production in association with Goal Line Prods. Produced by E.J. Heiser, Jun Tan. Executive producers, Miranda Bailey, Wang Ching, Joe Madden. Co-producers, Francey Grace, Julie Sandor. Directed, written by Matthew Leutwyler, from a story by Billy Burke, Leutwyler.

Crew

Camera (color), David Scardina; editor, Peter Flanagan; music, Brian Vander Ark; production designer, Don Day; set decorator, Lisa Clark; costume designer, Molly Grundman; special makeup FX, Michael Mosher; prosthetics, Richard Redlefsen; music supervisor, Michael Becker; assistant director, Michael K. DeVaney; casting, Kari Feyton. Reviewed at San Francisco Horror Festival, March 25, 2004. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Ever Carradine, Brent David Fraser, Bianca Lawson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Erik Palladino, Oz Perkins, Gina Philips, Jeremy Sisto, David Carradine, Diedrich Bader, Portia de Rossi, Vincent Ventresca, Mark Kelly, Miranda Bailey.

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