Plans for a quiet romantic getaway for geeky Edward (Nick Moran, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and his alluring bride, Samantha (Keeley Hawes) die a slow death when they arrive at a remote country inn on their honeymoon and find the place packed with festive undertakers attending their annual convention. While dodging the creepy corpse cosmetologist (Rik Mayall, The Young Ones) who has taken a shine to the newlyweds, the couple find themselves embroiled in a whodunit after the mysterious and bizarre death of a funeral conventioneer. Hilariously macabre, Chaos & Cadavers delivers not only slapstick belly laughs but the quirky, clever humor of a multilayered black comedy.
Chaos and Cadavers 6.75
eyelights: the script’s dark humour. the setting. the set-up.
eyesores: the direction. the third act.
“It’s a fine line between life and death, and the only thing in between is pleasure. It’s all in the way you handle it.”
Edward and Samantha Taggert are newlyweds going to Chateau Briand for their honeymoon. He works for an insurance company, Eternal Life. She is a mystery. They’ve only know each other for a short while.
Their honeymoon is off to a rocky start: the desk clerk has a hard time finding their reservation because they were entered under Haggard, not Taggert. Plus they were booked while there’s a conference in town.
…the Funeral Directors’ Association’s annual convention, it so happens. And it so happens that the Head of the Association will be found dead, presumably murdered, one evening, by none other than Edward.
With Edward a thanatophobic, and Samantha being the only woman there, their stay is going to get awkward. It’s certainly not going to be the romantic getaway that the young couple had hoped for.
Add to this a zany ploy by an ambitious Association member to take over the helm of the group by pretending that the Head isn’t dead, and you’ve got the makings of a farce of morbid proportions.
Thus, we have ‘Chaos and Cadavers’.
I stumbled upon this British black comedy while shopping online. I don’t remember which DVD I was buying, but I could get a bulk shipping from the seller if I bought more, so I picked out a few intriguing titles.
I loved the title of this 2003 film debut by writer-director Niklaus Hilber, but I knew nothing about it (there isn’t much about it online; even its official website is down). Still, I decided to take a gamble on it anyway.
It was an amusing, if sloppy, picture.
The direction wasn’t stellar, for one; there were many choices that I felt sapped the comic timing. The writing was also weak, featuring heavy-handed exposition and a contrived third act that lacked zing.
To make matters worse, most of the cast served up exaggerated performances – no doubt to play up the comedy. Naturally, this only served to highlight the blemishes in the already uneven script.
Nick Moran, who plays our lead, was a bit stiff and his comic moves made Edward seem inept and shrill. Keeley Hawes, as his counterpart, Samantha, was lovely; she didn’t shine, but she didn’t also overdo it.
The whole time I could see what the filmmakers were trying to do, but it just didn’t really come together; there were too many disparate parts vying for attention and none of them were especially convincing.
It all started off with bits of irony, what with the confrontation between Edward and the hotel desk clerk over his name and their reservations. Soon thereafter, however, it devolved into a strange form of slapstick.
There was a scene in which the guy in the room next door to our couple listens to classical music really loudly while taking rides on his vibrating chair – running it at such a high level that it shakes their room.
WTF. It’s just so random. It was supposed to be outrageous, but after the subtlety of the opening bit, it was too much. By the end, we were involved in wacky workshops on various aspects of the mortuary business.
That could have been funny if it had at all been clever, but it wasn’t. The only cleverness in this picture was relegated to blips on the radar (ex: funeral homes named Urned Respect and Ashes to Ashes).
But it just wasn’t enough to offset the rest.
Then there’s the small matter of the plot contrivances, which only served to highlight just how hard the filmmakers tried to glue all these disjointed parts together – and inevitably failed to make it seamless.
For example, after finding the cadaver, Edward begins to put pieces of the mystery together. But why didn’t he advise the front desk that the guy was dead? That would be the instinct of any rational person, no?
The answer: because it would trip the subplot of the other guy wanting to take the leadership of the Association, that’s why! It just wouldn’t work if Edward (or Samantha, for that matter) acted normally.
In a similar vein, why didn’t his sleuthing go anywhere? He spent enough time trying to solve the murder, but then nothing comes of it. The answer: because it would have foiled the villain’s plans, of course!
Essentially, if anything followed its logical course, this picture would simply freeze in its tracks and never ramp up to its zany conclusion. Which, truth be told, given how lame it was, wouldn’t have been a great loss.
The picture eventually sputtered to a close and wrapped it all up with end credits backed by a cheesy dance number by a singer named Juliet Jaimes. It was so discrepant that I just couldn’t get into it. So weird.
All this to say that ‘Chaos and Cadavers’ may have looked great on paper, as an outline, but it just doesn’t gel – poor directorial choices, a weak screenplay and goofy performances left this one dead on arrival.
But I’m sure I’ll watch it again someday, perhaps on lazy Sunday afternoon. It may have failed to meet my expectations, but it has some interesting elements to it nonetheless. And it’ll be great nap fodder.
Date of viewing: Jan 8, 2015