Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Brain Freeze

My notes on Brain Freeze

‘It’s not terrorists,’ exclaims security guard Dan (Roy Dupuis) when he realises how the zombie outbreak on Quebec’s exclusive Peacock Island has got started, ‘it’s golfers!’  In the sort of satiric stroke I associate with ‘70s films like The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, an upscale country club on the island has used a genetically modified fertiliser to grow year-round grass that also seems to melt snow … and when it gets into the water table, anyone who drinks from the tap becomes a green-eyed, ravening maniac and also starts taking on some characteristics of vegetation.

Though the symptoms and characteristics of the infected aren’t all commonplaces of Crazies-type outbreak pictures (see also: The Sadness), the upshot is much the same as neighbours, family members and even pets turn on each other and the film narrows focus to a few characters who hold out longest.  Dan is a grump who listens to callous radio phone-in host Patrick Nault (Simon-Olivier Fecteau) and has half-heartedly been prepping for doomsday, but is also optimistic enough to hope for a cure for his infected daughter (Marianne Fortier), whom he drags around with a muzzle-like basket on her head to keep her from biting.  André (Iani Bédard) is a teenager constantly glued to his smartphone, and resentful that his busy, health-conscious Mom (Anne-Elisabeth Bossé) leaves to him to take care of his baby sister Annie (the breakout star character of the film) because their nanny (Claudie Ferri) has understandably not made it in to work today.

The trivial motive for the evil science experiment sets a tone for some callous satirical strokes – because André only drinks coke he’s not infected, while his mother gets a fatal dose of monstrousness from her kale smoothie … and, in defiance of movie convention, a pet cat is used to distract a zombie horde so the unsentimental pet owner can make a getaway … and Nault eagerly switches from anti-refugee rhetoric to endorsement of ‘cutting off a gangrenous limb’ by wiping out the entire population of the island.  The conspiracy element brings in sleek twin assassins (Mylène Mackay) who stalk through menacingly after the infectees have burned out their initial aggression and shown signs of going Matango by becoming rooted, mossy, vegetable and harmless.  Director-writer Julien Knefo plays the horror with a kind of lightness, but the film also has a wintery beauty – unlike most hyperactive zombie movies, it’s shot with a calm classicism.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.

Here’s an unusual trailer – it’s a short, self-contained sequence that doesn’t appear in the film itself.


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