Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Dead and Breakfast | Conjure

By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2005

Dead and Breakfast
****
DVD
Directed by Matthew Leutwyler
R
88 mins

The zombie movie, ladies and gentlemen. There have been HORDES of them coming out lately--everything from the truly lousy ones like "The Wickeds" to the slam-bang action ones like "Dead Meat". George Romero actually came back to the theatres to give us "Land of the Dead," with mixed results. And the newest horror genre, the zombie comedy, was born.

Much to the delight of horror fans everywhere.

It kicked off with "Shaun of the Dead," and was quickly followed up with movies like "Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day," "Hide and Creep," and now, "Dead and Breakfast."

They bear a lot of the same elements. Romero physics rule the day--destroy the brain and you destroy the body. Lots of siegeworks are laid--buildings are boarded up and barricaded as a way to defend against the undead hordes.

And as if that weren't enough, they pack in the jokes. Tons of jokes. All manner of funny bits, from slapstick to cerebral. If you don't laugh at least once during the proceedings, check your pulse--you just may be a zombie yourself!

So what we have here is a road trip gone wrong, and the besieged bed and breakfast the six friends that went on the road trip find themselves in, resting for the evening. Now, naturally, if you're on a road trip with friends in a horror movie, something is going to go catastrophically wrong. And if that something goes wrong in the state of Texas, you know it'll go very wrong in a very big way.

Naturally, it does. The bed and breakfast is besieged by a legion of the walking dead. Which is pretty much why they called it "Dead and Breakfast." The opening menu is surprisingly clever. Watch that swirling background (shades of Hitchcock!) and tell me you're not even vaguely impressed.

And I positively love the first couple of minutes' comic book style opening credit roll. The rockabilly song going on in the background is the perfect compliment, and I'm just very impressed.

The country song at the five minute forty second mark is too funny for words. I mean it, folks...this is FUNNY. Funny is a great term to describe "Dead and Breakfast"--adding Diedrich Bader to the cast was an excellent idea for the comedy, and the creepy quotient gets ramped up handily thanks to David Carradine.

But it gets better! Sixteen minutes and forty eight seconds features one of the best jokes in the entire movie--the "Find The Corpse" sequence. The morbid hilarity is underscored by the soundtrack, and for being so horribly messy, it's just really, really funny.

You know what? If I tried to chronicle every single laugh-out-loud funny moment in "Dead and Breakfast," I'd be here for days describing this to you. You'd be sitting here reading a small novel about all the comedy. Suffice it to say there are literally tons of comedic gems sitting in "Dead and Breakfast," and that's long before the zombies even show up.

And when the zombies first start to crop up, the comedy takes a back seat. Oh, it's still there, but it's subdued in favor of a whole bunch of really vicious action scenes and plenty of gore.

Forty eight minutes fifty five seconds proves that "Dead and Breakfast" was really paying attention during "Night of the Living Dead" as they take alarmingly similar measures to board up the bed and breakfast. The homemade shotguns are just incredibly brilliant pieces of improvised weaponry.

And the song at one hour and fifty five seconds...oh man. The comedy is back with a vengeance as the zombies mount a DANCE NUMBER.

The ending is stuffed to the gills with action sequences, the occasional joke, and a few nifty surprises. Including a recapping music video during the final credit roll.

The special features include commentary tracks, deleted and extended scenes, a blooper reel (which is just a hoot in a movie like this), additional music, a poster and still gallery, plus trailers for "Dead and Breakfast", "Man With The Screaming Brain", "All Souls Day", and "It Waits".

All in all, "Dead and Breakfast" is a hoot. Though there will be obvious comparisons between it and "Shaun of the Dead", these comparisons are cosmetic at best. "Dead and Breakfast" is a laugh riot with lots of action and plenty of gore to be had. If you're not laughing, folks, check your pulse.

 

Conjure
no stars at all
DVD
Directed by Matt Busch
R
95 mins

There is nothing I can say that will express the depth of disappointment I feel while watching "Conjure." Read on to see why.

So what we have here is, well, I'm not sure just what it is we have here. We've got a lot of Matt Busch hawking his own artwork, and shamelessly promoting his career, but not much in the way of actual storyline going on here. At least not until the last half of the movie, when there is plot, but it's a plot you've seen before several times.

The first thing you'll likely notice about "Conjure" is that the effects are a real mixed bag. Even the first thirty five seconds is proof of this. First, the ghost at twenty five seconds in...convincing. Unnerving. Well acted, well done.

But then, follow that up with some second-rate weapons fire special effects at the twenty seven second mark.

But then, the monster sequence at the forty two second mark kicks in, and manages to be both creepy and weird all at the same time.

But then, we're treated to this positively horrendous opening sequence starting about a minute and a half in. Mindlessly self-serving, it is little more than a promotional sequence for Busch's artwork.

It's not that someone wouldn't have a use for this footage. It's not as though it isn't interesting, even! I'm sure amateur artists everywhere are going to find this inspirational. I did, even!

The problem is it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MOVIE!

Almost the first ten minutes of "Conjure" have NOTHING at all to do with the PLOT!

I find myself enraged by this. I just spent ten minutes watching a COMMERCIAL. Not even the THEATRES subject you to a ten minute commercial before the movie starts.

The theatres at least have the class to give you several different commercials for those ten minutes....

Worse yet, the next several minutes are almost exclusively devoted to Matt painting what looks like a castle he found in a graveyard. For a ninety minute flick, there's not a whole lot in the way of plot to be had here, folks. Thirteen minutes out of ninety have been eaten up by Matt And His Art. That's almost twenty five percent of your movie just lost to a guy drawing.

For reference, think how pissed off you'd be if "The Princess Bride" was twenty five percent Fred Savage sitting in bed and reading.

Put the torches and pitchforks down, please....

I found myself wondering, around the twenty minute mark...is there a plot in all this? WHERE is the plot in all this?

It's about twenty one minutes in, that's where the plot is. We get this nice little sequence, eerily reminiscent of the motion detector sequence in "Aliens" where Matt wanders through his house, gun in hand, as a series of motion detector lights activate on a command center back in the bedroom.

But then, twenty five minutes in, it's all for naught as it's back to Time Passes sequences of clouds moving and more with Matt And His Art.

The disappointment I feel at this moment is just staggering.

And THEN, as if the first ten minutes weren't bad enough, we get it all recapped in the form of a Detroit Free Press interview around the twenty seven minute mark! Who IS the target market for this movie, anyway? Really big Matt Busch fans with the attention spans of ferrets on crack??

Yes, there will be some new information in this sequence. It doesn't change the fact that it comes after the part that repeats what's said earlier.

The handful of purely terrifying sequences that come into play and the positively spectacular ghost effects are no match for the sheer and astonishing bulk of shameless self-promotion that we're subjected to.

The ending is twenty pounds of predictable in a five pound sack. Matt Saves The Day. Yaaaay. And the how is even worse...folks, we've all seen this before. This is a "Monkey's Paw" ending all over again, done so many times before by better movies than this. Eliminate the thing that caused the problem and watch the problem go away. "Wishcraft". "Wishmaster." "Hellraiser". "Leprechaun". The list goes on.

Plus, more commercials. You're welcome.

The special features include a blooper reel, a making of featurette, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, trailers, an interactive sketchbook, and others to be determined later.

All in all, Matt pretty much sums up the impetus behind the movie in the first ten minutes. Art is a lot about selling a product. And "Conjure" is the art that Matt must have intended to sell a lot of his own products. "Conjure" is, categorically, one of the worst movies I've had the intense displeasure of having seen in a long time.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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