Brain Freeze

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Brain Freeze
"The film is pretty hit and miss." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Zomcoms have struggled more than most films as a result of lockdown. It’s not that they can’t work on the small screen – not all of them need to have a horde – but that they’re natural crowd pleasers, working best when a big group of people can get together to share the laughs. Opening the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival, Brain Freeze was just the thing to welcome horror fans in from the cold to the warmth of a shared cinema experience – especially in Montreal. It subsequently screened at Frightfest.

Set on a small island off the coast of Quebec, this is a zombie story of the evil corporate polluter variety, with sinister experiments triggering a outbreak which must, of course, be contained at all costs. That’s bad news for André (Iani Bédard), who thought his day was going badly enough when he was left in charge of his baby sister. Now he doesn’t only have to deal with the unspeakable horrors of nappy changing, he has to keep them both alive in a world where everybody – including their mum – wants to dine on their brains.

Copy picture

Whence comes this desire for cerebral cuisine? It’s not entirely clear. These are zombies which behave like zombies because that’s how zombies behave, except it makes rather less sense than usual because of how these particular zombies end up (which makes about as much sense as it did in the infamous Troll 2). There are no new ideas here and fans of the living dead may well feel a bit short changed. How you respond to the film will depend primarily on how you relate to the characters. Not many of them last for very long, but the baby – who is sadly uncredited (and may in fact be two babies, which usually makes shooting easier) is wonderfully charismatic and director Julien Knafo manages to capture its expressions beautifully. This provides some of the film’s best deadpan humour, and scenes when the baby is crawling around unattended are particularly successful.

Elsewhere, the film is pretty hit and miss. André is quite obnoxious, which is forgivable in a teenager but gets wearing when it’s not being played for laughs. The special effects work is adequate and supports some nice set pieces, but there are no standout original sequences of death, dismemberment or more general gore. There is some very French Canadian humour (including a cute reference to predecessor The Ravenous) which will add to the film’s local appeal. It’s attractively packaged with good cinematography and it makes good use of locations both indoors and out, but it lacks that je ne sais quoi necessary to distinguish itself from the horde, and once it’s shambled away you’re unlikely to give it much thought.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2021
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Brain Freeze packshot
A fertilizer used in a rich gated community becomes the source of a genetic mutation that transforms its residents into zombies. Can a teenager and his baby sister break free from the quarantined island before turning into grass?

Director: Julien Knafo

Writer: Julien Knafo

Starring: Iani Bédard, Roy Dupuis, Marianne Fortier, Anne-Élisabeth Bossé, Claudia Ferri

Year: 2021

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: Canada


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