Arrow Video FrightFest 2021 Review – Brain Freeze
Brain freeze, 2021.
Written and directed by Julien Knafo.
With Iani Bédard, Roy Dupuis, Marianne Fortier, Anne-Élisabeth Bossé and Claudia Ferri.
A fertilizer used in a wealthy closed community becomes the source of a genetic mutation that turns its inhabitants into zombies. Can a teenager and his little sister escape the quarantined island before turning to grass?
The cinema of the living dead as a vehicle for satire was popularized by George A. Romero Dawn of the Dead over four decades ago, and few films since have matched his masterful mix of artful bloodletting and cutting-edge social commentary.
Julien Knafo’s new zom-com Brain freeze clearly targets contemporary class war and environmentalism through this gender lens, though neither its timeliness nor its violence seems sharp enough to provide a thoroughly convincing end result – despite a fair effort.
In Quebec’s upscale Peacock Island, winter is setting in, but well-off residents want to play golf all year round without the snow spoiling the lawn of the nearby seaside resort. So the club comes to an agreement with a shady company to spray a fertilizer-like compound on its turf, which allows the turf to withstand inclement weather and leave the course playable 365 days a year.
However, the compound eventually seeps into the local water supply, causing anyone who drinks it to transform into a green-eyed zombie-like mutant. At point zero of the outbreak is 13-year-old André (Iani Bédard), who is forced to flee with his one-year-old sister Annie as he teams up with security guard Dan (Roy Dupuis ), who, as an apocalyptic preparer, is better equipped than anyone to deal with this bizarre scenario.
Beyond its bizarre configuration, Brain freeze is a relatively ordinary zombie and garden variety film, tearing through genre tropes with seemingly enthusiastic effectiveness. Despite this, our central characters take until the third act of the film to realize precisely what is going on, regardless of whether it is explained to the audience at the very beginning of the story.
The pairing of a rich kid and an oppressed survival security guard makes for a simple yet effective juxtaposition of lessons, as is really the key theme of the film. The wealthy elites wish to bend the laws of nature to their will by beating the elements while ignoring the safety of everyone else, but come to find nature that literally bites them in the most literal sense.
Class will always be a ripe theme for satire as long as these chasms of inequality exist, but don’t expect much subtlety or nuance here; a well-trained golf club member barely stops before winking at the audience as he declares “golf is a social status”. The punches to populist and anti-science politics are also wider than they are wide, but in a movie where the cartoonish villain literally kicks a dog, it at least feels consistent.
While the horror aspect doesn’t take long to move, gore-hounds better know up front that there’s not much beyond standard throat rips and a few based slapsticks. on the limbs to savor. Because of this and the loose suspenseful sequences, the photo is more effective as a comedy; Arguably, nothing is funnier here than the fact that young Andre avoids the first round of infections because he only drinks Coca Cola.
And it’s really the performances that move the film forward even when it walks on water otherwise. Iani Bédard and Roy Dupuis, our respective protagonists in their teens and fifties, make a strange and funny couple, although the series is well and truly stolen by the twins Claire and Leonie Ledru, who together play the younger sister of André. As the adorable and often-imperiled baby at the epicenter of the outbreak, their perfectly timed reactions suggest they are natural on camera, serving as the glue to the film’s central eccentric surrogate family.
Globally, Brain freeze feels a little malnourished; the modest approach to gore, the unconvincing attempts to be emotional, and the intriguing but under-explored aspects of body horror suggest that the entire project needed a bit more time to bake. Still, the 91-minute runtime goes by pretty quickly, and it’s hardly a chore to sit down.
Not without its funny moments but ultimately too superficial to really deliver, Brain freeze feels a few currents of being a powerful zombie satire.
Evaluating the Flickering Myth – Movie: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more cinematic ramblings.