28th Aug2021

Frightfest 2021: ‘Brain Freeze’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Iani Bédard, Roy Dupuis, Marianne Fortier, Anne-Élisabeth Bossé, Claudia Ferri | Written and Directed by Julien Knafo

The affluent residents of Peacock Island want the ability to golf year-round. Their wish gets granted in the form of a new fertilizer that will grow grass even in the iciest conditions, but they soon realise all-year round golfing comes at a cost…the experimental fertilizer makes its way into the water supply, contaminating the population and leading to a spine-chilling zombie outbreak. Before his eyes, 13 year-old André sees the outbreak of a devastating epidemic that makes him an orphan. Horrified, he must fight for his survival and that of his one-year-old sister when he meets security guard Dan on a perilous journey to safety in the Golf Club chalet.

When people think zombie horror comedy these days they’ll undoubtedly think of the now-classic Brit rom-com Shaun of the Dead. But where that film was very much “you’ve got red on you”, Brain Freeze is more “you’ve got green on you”. Not purely because the infected humans turned zombies have green glowing eyes, spill green blood and have moss and grass, yes grass, growing out of them… No this film is more green than that – this is not only a zombie horror comedy but an environmental horror, a stark warning against messing with mother nature.

Of course given that we’ve just gone through worldwide lockdowns it does feel like Brain Freeze seemingly nods to said lockdowns as here the rest of Quebec blow up the bridge connecting the island to the mainland… in the ultimate closed boarders action. It’s one way to deal with a zombie outbreak thats for sure!

Brain Freeze is also a wonderful diatribe on right-wing politics, the power of the media, corporate greed and the “1%”. And, given the current climate, Julien Knafo’s film could also be seen as something of a metaphor for the global pandemic. You see the film plays on the “one rule for us, one rule for them” divide that – we all know – exists in society but was exacerbated by the pandemic, with many rich folks clearly enjoying more freedoms than us poor folk during multiple lockdowns, be they celebrities or politicians. In Brain Freeze its the very idea that the island on which the film takes place is a haven for that very kind of person – those that look down on common folk, those that want to be exempt from mixing with rif raff… and their arrogance is what causes the entire zombie infestation, turning them all against each other in an “eat the rich” style comeuppance!

And whilst the film does have deep socio-political undertones, on the surface Brain Freeze is also a very funny zombie comedy AND its scary too. Not an easy feat to pull off laughs and scares at the best of times but when you’re already hitting political points, seeing writer/director Julien Knafo pull off all three is remarkable. Truly. It helps that Knafo has a great cast – in particular  young lead Iani Bédard, who finds himself parentless and in charge of his younger sibling in the middle of a zombie infestation; and Roy Dupuis as wannabe survivalist Dan, one of the island’s security guards, who – because he doesn’t live on the island – finds himself one of the only people willing and able to take on the zombies. Well I say willing and able but Dan is actually anything but willing, all he wants to do is save his daughter (who is somewhat estranged) but “accidentally” ends up helping Bédard’s Andre after they cross paths.

Ultimately Brain Freeze is another fantastic example of just how horror, in particular the zombie genre, can say a lot about socio-politcal issues and be a fun entertaining genre film in its own right. Honeslty, for me, this one’s up there with Shaun of the Dead as a superb example of the zombedy (yes, controversial I know!).

**** 4/5

Brain Freeze screened as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest


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