Credit: Fantasia Festival
by Chris Mello Film

Brain Freeze | Julian Knafo

August 10, 2021

Although shot before Canada went into lockdown, Brain Freeze is the rare film that benefits from being mapped onto the COVID-19 pandemic. Seen in the light of real-life disaster, its shallow and familiar political messaging might seem relevant rather than simply standard fare for a zombie movie, the genre being, almost as a rule, interested in the concept of quarantine and cynical about governmental crisis response. To accuse Brain Freeze of having no new ideas, though, might be a useless stab at taking the entire subgenre to task. After all, when was the last time there was a vital new twist on the formula? But while the zombie film is itself a shambling undead recycling of old ideas, that doesn’t mean it’s been wrung of all possible fun. Unfortunately, Julian Knafo’s film is neither novel nor exciting, a slick but bog standard horror film of pat commentary and nearly devoid of thrills.

The wealthy Québécois inhabitants of Peacock Island — so named for its peacock population, which, disappointingly, do not get zombified during the film — wish to play golf year round and, to that end, the M Corporation has invented a fertilizer that keeps grass growing in the winter. That fertilizer gets into the water supply and starts turning the islanders into zombies, ones that grow grass out of their skin. Andre (Iani Bédard), the teenage son of a girlboss type go-getter, reluctantly teams up with Dan (Roy Dupuis), an out-of-towner who works security on the island and listens to the conservative talk radio program that constantly disparages Peacock throughout. The leisure of the wealthy creating a zombie pandemic and bringing together people from both sides of a class divide is a fine set-up for class-conscious comed, but Brain Freeze is routinely unfunny and unfocused, refusing anything really biting at every turn. One joke about the zombified staff of the country club seeking unionization merits a brief chuckle, but most of the film’s humor suffers from a total lack of perspective, not to mention a near absence of anyone not from this wealthy community. Duller still are the zombie attacks themselves, staged and executed with little flair and relative bloodlessness, especially as the plot becomes more convoluted, even incorporating sexy twin assassins working for the corporation. A zombie dog here and a zombie infant there are about as creative as Brain Freeze gets, so it’s a lasting shame that it never delivers on the peacocks.

Published as part of Fantasia Fest 2021 — Dispatch 2.