FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘Brain Freeze’ Injects New Life Into The Zombie Genre

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Brain Freeze- But Why Tho

Brain Freeze is a French-language film written and directed by Julien Knafo and produced by Palomar. The rich inhabitants of Peacock Island, an isolated setting in Quebec, hire an unscrupulous company to use a new fertilizer that will genetically modify their golf course so that they can play year-round. The fertilizer winds up in the water supply, where it has a dangerous effect: anyone who drinks it will be transformed into plantlike creatures with a taste for human flesh. Teenager André (Iani Bédard) has to keep his baby sister Annie safe after his mother is transformed into a zombie, and soon encounters Peacock Island’s security guard Dan (Roy Dupuis). A survivalist at heart, Dan is keeping his zombified daughter close as he believes he can cure her. Andre and Dan must learn to overcome their generation gap in order to survive the horde of zombies, as well as a pair of assassins sent to cover the company’s tracks.

The zombie genre has received an infusion of life this year, mainly due to the variety and tone of the different projects within the genre. Army of the Dead delivered an action-packed heist film, while this film taps into how people from differing walks of life have or haven’t adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. From André and Dan holing up in a closed space with their loved ones, to the more well-off inhabitants of Peacock Island carrying on like nothing’s wrong until they fall victim to the plague themselves, parts of this movie hit close to home. The film even cuts away to a radio host who takes pages out of what I call the “Joe Rogan Playbook,” and the company behind the fertilizer sends a pair of “fixers” to cover up its role in the incident.

However, where the film shines is in the interactions between its lead characters. At first glance, André and Dan could not be more different; André seems constantly glued to his smartphone and guzzles soda like it’s going out of business, while Dan gets most of his news from the radio and carries a beat-up flip phone. The one connection they share is their devotion to their family. André has to keep an eye on Annie after their mother becomes a zombie, and Dan is desperate to save his daughter despite having no way to do so. Unlike fellow Fantastic Fest film Hotel PoseidonBrain Freeze understands that strong characterization helps drive a horror film.

The zombies in the film are also a refreshing cry from the usual shambling flesh-eaters we’ve seen on screen. Thanks to the superb make-up work from artists Erik Gosselin and Edwina Voda, their skin takes on a clammy tone with green veins spreading throughout, and their eyes and teeth taking on a green tint. As time wears on, the zombies soon start to grow plant-like profusions out of their hands and faces, resembling a leafier version of the monsters from The Last of Us. A dog even falls victim to the plague, with results that are simultaneously hilarious and horrifying.

Brain Freeze is a unique take on the zombie genre, tapping into current-day anxieties and putting a greener spin on the walking dead. While it isn’t as pointed with its commentary as George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead or as frightening as other zombie films, it’s still worth a watch and may even get more than a few chuckles out of its audience.

Brain Freeze premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

Brain Freeze
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Brain Freeze is a unique take on the zombie genre, tapping into current-day anxieties and putting a greener spin on the walking dead. While it isn’t as pointed with its commentary as George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead or as frightening as other zombie films, it’s still worth a watch and may even get more than a few chuckles out of its audience.