The F*ckin Black Sheep: Club Dread (2004)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Club Dread (2004)

Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar

Excuse the double indulgence friends, but as we’re tasked with penning a F*ckin Black Sheep article this week, we cannot get or let the late, great Bill Paxton out of our hearts and minds. His untimely passing is simply unacceptable. I mean, we’ve seen a preponderance of celebrity deaths in the past year or so, but for movie fans, this one somehow hits harder than most. About as hard as when we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman. Because, much like Hoffman, Paxton knew no limit when it came to entertaining through vast range of acting talent. More importantly, attested by all who knew the man intimately or merely met him, he was an even better person. Just take a look at the outpouring flood of love and support industry insiders and fans alike have been voicing over the past few days. It’s as if we lost a cinematic family member. We lost a truly special one in Bill Paxton!

And one of Bill’s movies that garnered more unencumbered hate than outright love was the 2004 island slasher whodunit CLUB DREAD. Hell, our own John the Arrow Fallon bestowed a mild 5/10 Heads back when the flick came out. Now, granted, Paxton is just a piece in a larger ensemble, far from the main character, but his role of Coconut Pete – a swanky, swashbuckling, boozy, Bacchanalian island pimp – is absolutely one of his most memorable. And honestly, after a tepidly received first viewing, I’ve come to not only like CLUB DREAD for what it is, but because of how much I enjoy Paxton’s performance in the film, it’s become one where, if it’s on TV, I’ll shut everything else down immediately and gleefully listen to Coconut Pete croon out “Pina Coladaburg.” I miss this man already! Aside from the sentiment though, allow is to argue why CLUB DREAD is unfairly seen as a F*ckin Black Sheep!

It starts with the loftily unmet expectations the Broken Lizard Troop’s first flick, SUPER TROOPERS, pinned to the flick. That movie grew such a cult following that a sophomore slump would seem inevitable, regardless of the project. The characters in SUPER TROOPERS were so well drawn, yet so vastly different from those in CLUB DREAD, people simply didn’t know what to think. Farva (played by Kevin Heffernan), for example, went from a boorish imbecilic cop to a suave and sensitive tantra guru. Mac (Steve Lemme), from a mustachioed macho-man to hairless Spaniard. On and on. The shifts were too drastic, the material so far off from SUPER TROOPERS that audiences immediately dismissed the flick as inferior all the way around. But should we really impugn these dudes for stretching? Going further? Challenging the status quo? If the movie were unfunny, then perhaps we should. I happen to think it is funny, just as the Broken Lizard troop is on record saying, this is their funniest film.

If not their funniest, it’s certainly their most fun. A hot, sultry, sexy, rollicking good time by all is had when a quintet of friends hit Coconut Pete’s Island Resort – a vacation getaway spot for randy swingers. Of course, once there, strangers and key players alike are systematically stalked, one by one, and viciously flayed by a mysterious murderer. A lot of the fun of the flick lies in trying to correctly guess who the killer is, and for full disclosure, I might submit that a large part of my enjoyment of the film has to do with rightly indentifying the sumbitch. But enough of the self-service. The overall light touch, jocular tone and party atmosphere of the flick give it an inherent festival vibe, one of abject enjoyment. None of this is better personified than in the happy go lucky, hedonistic emcee, Coconut Pete!

But before we conclude with a heartfelt ode to Paxton’s Pete, it’s worth nothing how nasty, gnarly and gory some of the violent slayings in the film are, and how starkly contrasted they are in relation to the aforementioned festival vibe. This too seemed an issue for folks seeing the flick for the first time, the blend of humor and horror wasn’t quite pureed smoothly enough for most to easily digest. I disagree, pointing to one scene in particular as a prime example of these two poles converging seamlessly. It’s when Nat Faxon’s character is playing hide and seek in a maze, forced to take shots of booze upon a wrong turn, until he’s finally met by our disguised killer and savagely slaughtered right there on the spot. It’s both fun and f*cked up at once. And hey, who can really front on the aesthetic value of not just the super-sexy Brittany Daniel, but remember, Jordan Ladd flashes her infamous supple double-d’s in her name as well. A feat not even Eli Roth could achieve! 

Really though, it’s mainly the freewheeling, fun-loving spirit expressed by Bill Paxton as Coconut Pete that makes me want to see the movie over and over again. It’s hard to explain, but to me Pete somehow feels like a long lost uncle I both know so very well, yet have never met. Does that make sense? Dude is the captain of Goofball Island in this flick. He simply comes across as a dude who, at the absolute very least, you’d want to party with. Just like Bill Paxton himself, I’d imagine.

Look, is CLUB DREAD a great film? Probably not. But it has such an overtly fun, celebratory spirit and generous joie de vivre amid its hyper-violence that I believe, due to its comparisons to SUPER TROOPERS, it’s been wrongly panned over the last dozen years or so. It’s also a movie you can tell has legitimate love for and knowledge of, horror movies of yore. Like an Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg flick, it’s more of a goofy send-up rather than an out and out horror joint. Of course, none of it would likely work without the leader, the libertine lynchpin himself, Bill Paxton as Coconut Pete. I realize it’s a bit silly to single this one out in a career of greats, but hey, there’s no one character Paxton played that exuded such open and inclusive love for everyone around. Bill, Pete, here’s one last tip of the tequila for ya. You'll be missed forever!


Extra Tidbit: Paxton credited his TOMBSTONE brother Kurt Russell for his work in CAPTAIN RON as inspiration for Coconut Pete.
Source: AITH



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