Welcome back to Drinking With The Dread, booze and gore hounds! Last month’s selection favored new-age demonism with Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm, so I decided to keep things a bit more retro-classic this go around. It’s time to worship at the altar of 1985’s greatest – nay, an exemplary genre exercise that stands as one of *the* most magnificent party horror flicks of all time. Grab your gaudiest attire and try not to crack any sealed canisters, because we’re raving to the grave with Dan O’Bannon’s The Return of The Living Dead.
The funny part is, without certain powers that be, we might be recalling a completely remodeled film. Tobe Hooper was originally meant to direct a 3D, more canonically Night Of The Living Dead kind of zombie scourge, but then Lifeforce happened and O’Bannon was offered the director’s chair – under one condition. He wanted to drastically rewrite John Russo’s original story to differentiate from Romero’s now-iconic brand. O’Bannon found more fun in degenerate punk teens and sleazy 80s schlock. Could you imagine a world *without* Linnea Quigley’s flare-lit tombstone dance? Not a reality this horror fan wants to imagine.
From tonality to soundtrack to costumes to dialogue, The Return Of The Living Dead is a voyage into the morbidly hilarious and grotesquely renegade. It’s not enough that volume bumping could double as a boot-stompin’ party mix (“Partytime (Zombie Version)” by 45 Grave – Hollywood’s *greatest* needle drop) – there’s also history behind O’Bannon’s identification of brains as zombie chow. It’s more than just a solid drinking rule – spoilers, sorry – because George Romero’s ideals positioned zombies as eaters of flesh. No distinct tastes. O’Bannon was the one who pushed subgenre tendencies towards cranium chomping. A little horror history lesson for ya!
Of course, this is a column that focuses on party-first horror. You’re here because of Suicide’s assertion that his anarchistic bondage getup isn’t just a costume, it’s a “lifestyle!” You’re here for David Bowie haircuts and hapless pickup lines such as, “Do you like sex with death?” You’re here for Clu Gulager’s scheming, James Karen’s wailing, Don Calfa’s incinerating. Government cover ups, zombies who pose as paramedics and radio in their dinner orders, dead-mocking misfits who find themselves hunted by living corpses. All hail this divine slice of after-dark cinema that never takes itself serious and leans heavily into overplaying elemental necessities. As timeless as it is culturally representative.
Straight up: The Return Of The Living Dead flaunts a brand of cool every horror comedy tries so desperately to achieve, and Dan O’Bannon makes it look easier than Ms. Trash in a room full of corpses.
Highlight moments include (but are not limited to):
- “Hey, somebody get some light over here. Trash is taking off her clothes again!”
- Ernie and the “rabid weasel” bags.
- Burt’s coverups.
- Suicide’s…well…pretty much Suicide at all times.
- Spider’s reactions.
- Zombie Trash.
- The greatest 80s horror soundtrack of all time?
- O’Bannon’s ability to serve us the stinkiest, most pungent horror cheese and make every bite just as delicious as the last.
Alright you surfin’ dead junkies, let’s get to this month’s imbibing. Here are the slime-covered rules for Drinking With The Dread’s The Return of The Living Dead Drinking Game:
- Drink every time Frank drops a wiseass remark or lets out a whimpering scream.
- Drink every time the film shifts character focus (with so many characters scattered around, editing cuts back-and-forth between groups like crazy).
- Drink every time the word “Brains” is spoken.
- Drink every time the needle drops so damn hard (every time a rockin’ song kicks a scene into gear).
- Drink TWICE for each prominent character death (maybe not for *every* policeman in the swarm, but I’ll let you decide).
- TAKE A SHOT when that oh-so-famous zombie rises, his jaw pops down and 45 Grave asks us “Do you want to party!” right before the first big zombie attack.
Shout out to my buddies for lugging over a case of Lagunitas Sumpin’ Easy to support our trial run, which clocked in at about 3-4 beers each if you’re being generous. Liberal sips will run you over 3 beers so have the 4th handy, but this will be a solid 3-beer (and one shot) game for most. That’s probably best since the film’s enjoyable qualities may distract from drink-taking at times. Or maybe just cause a spit take or two.
As always, participate responsibly. If you see yourself guzzling at too fast a speed, dial the rules down. It’s not like Freddy’s cronies will appear to ridicule you like the square-peg you are. Which they would most certainly do.
One last time, let’s raise our glasses in honor of a quintessential party-horror classic: The Return Of The Living Dead. Dan O’Bannon created a certifiable zombie masterpiece to be embraced like the lifestyle it is, peacock flow-hawks and all. It cares so little to impress that genuine disinterest in playing by established rules becomes the film’s naughty, unmistakable charm – only this doesn’t have to be anyone’s dirty little secret. If anything, it’s a litmus test for relationship acceptance. Haters need not apply.
Drinking With The Dread: A CLUB DREAD Slaycation
With Super Troopers 2 now (or, “meow”) in theaters, I thought it appropriate to honor Broken Lizard’s Club Dread for this month’s Drinking With The Dread. Dread Central, Club Dread, Drinking With The Dread, Putman’s dreadlocks, dreadful tones – HOW MUCH MORE DREAD DO YOU NEED?!! [In a very Al Snow voice] WHAT DOES EVERYBODY WANT?! DREAD!!!!
Club Dread satirizes “classic” tropes of horrors past like drunken buddies might while circling a campfire. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done – over, and over, and over – but as a Super Troopers/Beerfest enthusiast, I respect how Broken Lizard carves their genre buffoonery with precision “stupidity.” Bro-centric horndog jokes, nudity, and sex-first humor define Club Dread, yet frameworks remain sufficiently cognizant of the slasher puzzle reassembling at play. Acts I and II are torn from vacation comedies of yesteryear – but Act III slices with intent to kill. Jokes on you, doubters.
At the center of everything is burnout musician Coconut Pete – basically Jimmy Buffett but totally not, played by Bill Paxton. After a life of bongs, groupies and tour dates, Pete opens a Costa Rican resort destination he dubs “Pleasure Island.” Newbie masseuse Lars (Kevin Heffernan) reports for his first assignment, but the fun and games quickly end once a killer starts offing staff members according to lyrics found in one of Pete’s old sea shanties (“Naughty Cal”). Cue Lars and a collection of Pleasure Island workers doing their best to stay calm while keeping visitors safe – which, as you can expect, goes horribly awry.
For Broken Lizard boosters, half the film’s fun comes from watching rostered comedians test different character arcs and personas. Heffernan, for example, sheds his Officer Farva obnoxiousness to play fingers-of-gold maestro Lars (liter-cola zero to “suave” hero). Jay Chandrasekhar tries his hand at abrasiveness as pervy and awkward tennis instructor Putman, Steve Lemme plays the hairless Latin gigolo Juan, Paul Soter is the island’s bleary-eyed DJ and drug dealer – it’s a notable evolution to track from Puddle Cruiser to Super Troopers and then Club Dread, if only because Erik Stolhanske breaks from his “Rabbit” shell to play Sam, the “Fun Police” employee with a water gun full of tequila and energy to match.
As stated, Acts I and II are staged on the lotion-slathered backs of unaware Pleasure Island guests. Regular supporting talents Nat Faxon and Michael Weaver spend their entire stay overcompensating masculine qualities by talking about which female “targets” will “get it” – aggressive brotendencies undone by an accidental hug – along with Samm Levine and his self-proclaimed gigantic…well, you know. Dialogue can get a bit dodgy and uncouth, much like any fraternal comedy of the early 2000s. Aerobics instructor Annie (Brittany Daniel) spends scene after scene fighting off the advances of Putman and other clueless sorts, but it’s never detrimental or cringy. Broken Lizard start their genre commentary not on horror, but American Pie comedies of the same sticky qualities.
Then it’s to Act III where the atmosphere tightens. Everyone believes urban legend Machete Phil has come to seek his revenge on Paradise Island, and while I won’t say if this is true, I will confirm the slasher homages are far wittier than costumed Pac-Man pretzels and watermelons boinking. Once the killer is outed, humor simmers on the backburner – it’s all about jungle survival. And maybe an orgasm joke. BUT STILL MOSTLY SURVIVAL.
[Redacted] owns his-or-her role as the film’s machete-wielding stalker, complete with one of my favorite “killer gets up and smiles a lunatic’s grin” awakenings. Then severed body parts start popping and…ugh. It’s hard because Club Dread most certainly hasn’t been viewed by all so I’m staying spoiler free. Just trust that all the best surprises are direct responses to horror generics that still plague genre offerings to this day. So wonderfully lite-and-airy thanks to Broken Lizard’s booze-drenched charm.
Highlight moments include but are not limited to:
- Not one, but *two* Buffalo Bill tucks?
- So many red herrings you’ll be smelling fishy for days.
- Bill Paxton as the stringy-hair product of 70s psychedelics abuse.
- “Yu,” the name that keeps on giving.
- Why is everyone talking about “shit” so much?
- So many practical corpses.
- Real life Pac-Man.
- Steve Lemme’s accent.
- Jordan Ladd.
Time to hop aboard the Pleasure Island express! Here are the Drinking With The Dread rules for Broken Lizard’s Club Dread:
- Drink every time the signature “ominous music” kicks in.
- Drink every time there’s a sexual reference, sexual innuendo or sexual joke (physical or verbal).
- Drink every time you hear the word “machete” or see a machete.
- Drink every time a character dies.
- Drink TWICE when you see a monkey or hear a monkey noise (gorillas included).
- Drink TWICE whenever you hear a Coconut Pete song.
- Take a shot when Coconut Pete makes his final entrance through the window.
My test run for this month was carried out in bed on a Sunday morning, with water, as an unexpected hangover cure. Who knew a night of barroom swillage could be treated by preparing a drinking game and sipping H2O from a leftover can? As I learned – because this is what I do for y’all – you should have about 3-4 beers handy. The “sex joke” rule is a killer – Broken Lizard has no filter when it comes to “Oral Roberts” and gymnast puns. Get ready to chug *a lot* on behalf of intercourse-crazed resort patrons.
Can I get one last cheers for Club Dread? It’s easy to write off vacation horror that starts with a blowjob gag (lol), b00bz and “Spring Break” deaths – but there’s so much more to Broken Lizard’s sanguine swipe at slasher cinema. It’s everything you’ve seen before because *that’s exactly what they’re making fun of.* Psycho motives, characters who make illogical choices, more misunderstandings than you can shake a calamari tentacle at. This a horror lover’s movie that pokes fun by emulation, and for that we should be thankful. You’ll laugh, you’ll laugh some more, and continue laughing as the bodies pile up. I’d say that’s how a horror comedy should work.
Drinking With The Dread: Doom For The Masses Edition
Kill ’em all, let God sort them out.
Wait, sorry. You know that’s a direct quote from Dwayne Johnson’s “Sarge,” right? A tad bit aggressive if you don’t, so I apologize – but yes. “It me,” as the kids say. Revving up his chainsaw and charging into the industrial sci-fi hellscape that is 2005’s Doom. A movie you all seem to hate so vehemently given my Twitter interactions, and also my favorite collector’s edition steelbook in the ol’ blu-ray collection. “Yeah, because it’s so bad it’s” – NO. IT’S GENUINELY FUN, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’VE HAD A GOOD AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL.
And thus another entry of Drinking With The Dread was spat unto the Earth.
Without argument, Doom is a no-brainer booze screening. Maybe when watching Bartkowiak’s critically-ravaged video game adaptation with a sniper’s eye for continuity it’s easy to scoff at. I get it – tactical teams would wear helmets, jump scares are plentiful, cheesy militant stereotypes bark orders – but that’s also what makes Doom such a riotous group experience. Deaths are ludicrous, monsters are bountiful and Mr. The Rock is off the damn chain with one-liners. Has Richard Brake ever been creepier (suck it, 31)? Karl Urban more begrudgingly badass (the mutant scientist gun-down)? THE DOOM EVER DOOMIER?!
Sarge’s platoon may be a rag-tag collection of Predator knockoffs, but they know how to own their roles (the holiest member’s tag is “Goat” because it’s typically a satanic symbol, get it?!). Self-mutilating when making mistakes, doping up on drugs to ease the Hell-on-Earth gloom that paints a dark shadow over solar lifestyles, they’re one wad of chewing tobacco away from being NPC recreations based on generic war boy forms, if only because Doom goes for style over substance when it comes to destruction. Hell Knights, Resident Evil lookin’ crawlers, zombified facility workers and all (prosthetic costumes hide veteran monster men Doug Jones and Brian Steele). There’s always danger and it’s never dull – from electric containment units to Portman’s sadistic potty demise.
Doom is an easy movie to knock – what video game adaptation isn’t – but cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts’s blend of seamless in-level perspectives with an otherwise fly-on-the-wall narrative is playful. References stick and payoffs ensure die hard Doomers see their favorites – BFG, duh – all set to a digitally-doomsday atmosphere. Blackness engulfs Bartkowiak’s restricted space colony maze of nanotechnology and animal laboratories, colorful in the hues of interstellar insurgency. You’re in, out and on with your day after 105 minutes of round burstin’ necro-annihilation – mission fucking accomplished you unappreciative heathens.
Highlight party moments include but are not limited to:
- Pinky’s transformation.
- Gratuitous BFG wanking.
- Karl Urban’s FPS demon rampage.
- The Rock isn’t supposed to die!
- One committed rat impersonation.
- Always check for explosives before you jump.
- Clint Mansell’s crunchy, industrial rock score.
- “Daddy’s home.”
Hope you’re locked and loaded, my Drinking With The Dread squad. It’s time for the Doom drinking game rules:
- Drink every time a squad member’s “codename” is spoken.
- Drink every time a squad member dies.
- Drink every time there’s a jump scare.
- Drink every time the BFG (ahem, “Big Fucking Gun”) is mentioned, fired – ‘eff it, drink for anything involving the BFG.
- Drink TWICE when Portman says/does something creepy.
- Drink TWICE whenever someone uses Ark transportation or passes through a nanowall.
- Take a SHOT when John Grimm aka “Reaper” goes into first-person mode.
Be warned, this drinking game is “Nightmare” level difficult. My test run clocked in at about four and a half cans of Narragansett along with a shot of mezcal for myself and a fellow Doom enthusiast (each). Our Friday plans to “pregame” before going out quickly morphed into a night in, our bellies filled with golden nectar from the shores of Pawtucket. Don’t worry, if I’m trying to make y’all watch Doom I’ll sure as hell get your buzz on. The rules line up oh-so-well with Reaper’s run-and-gun rampage. You’ll be feelin’ plenty good enough to root and scream along with his final showdown against Sarge – whose name you’ll *hate* before the night is over.
As always, drink responsibly – but if you’re watching Doom, you’re probably not very responsible to begin with so start suckin’ down some sudz, you space-nancy cockroach.
Can I get one final cheers for Doom? You can rant and rave about how unpractical or nonsensical it all may be, but Andrzej Bartkowiak made a damn entertaining “movie” (as Steven Spielberg would say, re: Ready Player One comments). One that traps characters between closing doors with hilarious repetition and unlocks one of cinema’s perviest, most skin-crawlingly-uncouth side characters in “Portman.” Pre-superbeef Dwayne Johnson lays waste to Mars’ worst kept DNA splicing secret, Karl Ubran’s scowl is on-point and Rosamund Pike one again makes you ask “Why isn’t Rosamund Pike in more movies?” Go suck an egg, internet. Doom rules.
Drinking With The Dread: The Cabin In The Woods
Before Chris Hemsworth cracked the sky as Marvel’s God of Thunder and before Bradley Whitford wanted to vote Obama in for a third term (or so we thought), Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon enlisted the two actors for a meta-horror fiesta that’d be shelved by MGM and later released under Lionsgate’s banner. The Cabin In The Woods, ever hear of it? You f*$&ing BETTER have. This “loving hate letter” to at-the-time genre stagnancy (torture porn) benefited from Hemsworth’s timely 2011 catapult into Marvel’s frequently-debated stratosphere of “Chrises” but we mustn’t forget, Cabin filmed first (2009). Hemsworth chipped his teeth on an ambitious genre fare fit for Friday-night fright clubs and 24/7 deadheads alike. It’s a party and everyone’s invited! Even the killer robots and evil clowns!
As any group-pleasing watch should, The Cabin In The Woods has something for *literally* everyone. Self-referential humor that’s practically one feature-length genre in-joke? Bastardizations of oft-abided “rules?” A cubist zoo full of creatures? Dancing Richard Jenkins? It’s a headbanging harbinger that delivers on *every* promised exploit; a chaotic union of apocalyptic absurdity. What starts as generic “cabin in the woods” initiating ends on another goddamn planet altogether. One with gigantic deities who order rituals inspired by every zombie, slasher, and monster flick you’ve ever seen. Good for a billion and one “I could survive that!” drunken debates.
Performances are – without argument – necessary contributions to experience, but horror fans needn’t more than Goddard and Whedon’s scripted string of genre-bashing masterworks. A typical character introduction meetup occurs: Marty Mikalski (Fran Kranz) rolls out his collapsible bong, and then we get to Mortecai’s (Tim DeZarn) gas-station-attendee warning. Something feels amiss. A movie that calls itself The Cabin In The Woods couldn’t be this simple, right?
Of. Course. Not. Dummy.
It’s not long after that some poor birdie slams head-first into a cloaked force field that flickers exposure and our minds begin to race. What unfurls is anything but an Evil Dead knockoff as Rubik’s Cube poster designs reveal hidden meaning – and only embellish an outrageous takedown/homage of every horror blueprint known to learned disciples. Explanations abound, treatments less puzzling and more precious. For every action, Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) are there to blame. Bantering about Hadley’s at-home wife drama or calculating their perfect evil Sims game with cackles and company man charms.
Jenkins and Whitford’s crowd-favorite control technicians manipulate Hemsworth’s clan as sacrificial lambs for their godlike bosses. They operate as white-collar office workers whose job is to guide unknowing souls into horror-film-inspired demises. An underground (literally), international network that pits subjects against cultural arenas of horror (e.g. Japanese schoolchildren vs. a Ringu-like ghost), nudging them slightly with hornifying fogs, caved roads, anything that veteran horror fans would deem a consequential cop-out. Blame immediately lifted from mindless characters – hilariously, I might add.
American departments place wagers on which monster will be unleashed like your office Super Bowl pool, keeping things lighthearted between knowing corporate drones who deal in death for a living. Some horror fans balked at such “distracting” humor when their slasher expectations were not met, but I argue the opposite – The Cabin In The Woods is a demented court jester that understands how both elements can work severed hand in severed hand. Satire by way of reinvention, commentary in an Earth-shattering new direction.
The Cabin In The Woods, for my bloody dollar, is more than 2012’s most accomplished horror offering. Think larger. Goddard and Whedon challenged not only themselves, but other filmmakers to approach horror with new mindsets. Enough Saw-inspired traps and hapless theme-baiting. These two sliced the genre beast at its throat and flipped its now-detached head for all to see. A trophy displayed, crowds chanting their approval in droves who thirst for this new stench of victory. In 2012, The Cabin In The Woods felt like a restart button for horror fans – and goddamn did that piercing chill feel something oh-so-good.
Party-starter moments include but are not limited to:
- Jules’ mounted wolf-head kiss
- Marty the stoner prophet
- Curt’s bird-brained crash reenactment
- Steve’s merman wish being granted
- The entire betting pool scene, complete with monster dry-erase board
- The very first wave of elevator doors opening
- SIGOURNEY WEAVER
What’s that, Curt? You want to start slugging keg beers and see where the night heads? Sure thing – here are the rules for Drinking With The Dread’s The Cabin In The Woods drinking game!
- Drink every time an obvious horror trope is busted.
- Drink every time Curt goes alpha-bro.
- Drink every time Marty does something stoner-y.
- Drink for every horror movie reference (found here, in case you need help).
- Drink TWICE every time Sitterson and Hadley manipulate the situation.
- Drink TWICE whenever a significant party member dies.
- TAKE A SHOT when the Buckner family is summoned.
At the expense of my own folly, I did *not* get a chance to test this month’s game out. Preparation for South by Southwest dominated all pockets of free time, so I don’t have an exact beverage count for necessary game completion. Maybe that’s where you can help this week? Gather your Scholar, your Athlete – summon your cast of characters and forge up some silver bullets. Believe in the unknown and let me be your personal Harbinger I MEAN GUIDE BECAUSE YOU’LL TOTALLY BE FINE HAHA WHAT CAN GO WRONG?!
As always, I must encourage you to drink responsibly and not become a sacrifice to your own foolish devices. The gods of barley and hops should not be tempted by the faint of heart or tolerance. Goddard and Whedon created some sixty creatures for their “kitchen sink” assault – let’s not introduce Vomitron 2000 as the sixty-first?
Once again, I cheers to you my warriors of the alcoholic underworld. Someday we’ll do this in person, but for now, keep fighting the good fight in the name of inebriated midnight madness. The Cabin In The Woods, now immortalized as a Drinking With The Dread entry that will surely rest in my Hall Of Fame. If only because any belief in humanity feels more in-line with the film’s finale by the day.
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