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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Dead Shack

My notes on Dead Shack.

A cheerfully gruesome Canadian horror comedy – with distinctive characters and a few fresh touches, but mostly going over familiar bloodsoaked ground.  It’s yet another zombie film, but falls into that endangered species of zombie non-apocalypse story, dealing with what seems to be a localised phenomenon and a bizarre family set-up.  In fact, the villain’s last-reel explanation of how she’s tried to keep her undead family going for the last ten years suggests a potentially more compelling, affecting tale than the film chooses to tell.

 

‘Fun Dad’ Roger (Donavon Stinson) takes his sullen, snarky teenagers Summer (Lizzie Boys) and Colin (Gabriel LaBelle) away for a weekend in a cabin (uh oh) with the kids’ tagalong pal and whipping boy Jason (Matthew Nelson-Mahood) and his new, younger, sulkier girlfriend Lisa (Valerie Tian).  Everyone gets on everyone else’s nerves, and Colin in particular grosses out the entire party … while Roger desperately tries to play patriarch and cosy up to the kids while clearly hoping for alone time with Lisa.  In the next cabin over, a woman identified only as ‘the Neighbour’ (Lauren Holly) lures unwary passersby into being meat for her dead, slobbering family – which leads to a Texas Chain Saw Massacre-like collection of cars in the yard, monsters in the basement, victims in the closet and other jump-up-and-go-boo elements that clash slightly with the collection of unicorn ornaments.

 

Holly (from such ‘90s pictures as Dumb and Dumber, Sabrina and Beautiful Girls) plays much of the film in a welder’s mask and armour, but gives a committed, determined performance.  Even if the kids weren’t so annoying (each in a different way), the Neighbour would come over as the most sympathetic character here – though her example, as a woman who will literally kill for her family, does prompt Summer and Colin to make a stand and reaffirm their own family values when they set out to rescue Dad, who has drunk the drugged wine, from the space under  the Neighbour’s stairs.  This leads to an Evil Dead-style parody ‘tooling-up’ sequence as they repurpose sports gear, duct tape and nails into armour and weapons – with Colin obnoxiously calling shotgun on the shotgun and then pointing out his clever wordplay.

 

The creatures are black-bleeding, grey-faced, slobbering ghouls who shamble uselessly and have their heads exploded by shotgun blasts – a throwback to the kind of creatures found in The Child or Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, the first wave of Romero imitations.  Director Peter Ricq, who co-wrote with Davila LeBlanc and Phil Ivanusic, stays away from the nastier stuff, delivering plenty of gross-outs but few scares.  It’s perhaps down to Holly that there are a few poignant moments in the blood-drenched farce.

 

Here’s a trailer.

 

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  1. Pingback: FrightFest 2017 – Complete Review Round-Up | The Kim Newman Web Site - August 29, 2017

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