Dead Shack (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

For folks experiencing zombie fatigue, “Dead Shack” might be the small movie that cures your unrest for the sub-genre. Director-writer Peter Ricq and co-writers Philippe Ivanusic, Davila LeBlanc twist conventions rather well while also introducing a dashing but complex horror villain to boot. “Dead Shack” is a fun and very funny mix of genres that has a good time implementing the zombie sub-genre without bogging the entire movie down in typical cinematic tropes and heavy handed overtones. The zombies here are more devious plot devices that allow for a ton of gore and splatter, and director Ricq never shies away from the gooey and red stuff.

There are a ton of great moments of gut chomping and head bashing, but the more entertaining aspects are the characters and the extraordinary situation they end up in. Centered on a small family, we meet over cautious Jason as he goes on a weekend vacation with his best friend Colin and Colin’s tough as nails sister Summer. Despite her rough around the edges demeanor, Jason harbors a crush on Summer, and is intent on finding the right time to pursue her. As they settle in with Colin and Summer’s oafish dad Roger, and his high maintenance girlfriend Lisa, the trio go exploring in the woods. Before long they end up at a lone house surrounded by cars, and unwittingly end up at the door step of a young woman who happens to be a deadly predator.

Unimposing and seemingly harmless, she has a long history of luring victims and trespassers in to her house. Drugging them, she eventually feeds them to her family of zombies she stores in her freezer. When the trio bears witness to her latest victims, she makes a trek to their cabin intent on keeping her secret from spreading. Intent on saving Roger who is stuck in the neighbor’s cabin, the trio of kids armor up and prepare for battle. The film is carried beautifully by the cast, including Lizzy Boys, who is a genuine scene stealer as tom boy Summer, who is never afraid to spout off at the mouth, and unleashes her wrath when she realizes her family are in mortal danger.

Boys has a lot of potential to break out in film, and I can’t wait to see what she stars in next. Gabriel Labelle, Matthew Nelson-Mahood, and Donovan Stinson are also hilarious, while Lauren Holly is great in a small but memorable role as the film’s relentless villain. What might make or break “Dead Shack” is that Ricq and the writers keep the origin of the zombie family, and their zombification ambiguous. I thought it was a breath of fresh air, with Ricq and co. sticking to important story elements like the welfare of the trio of teens and their efforts to preserve their family. “Dead Shack” is a raucous and laugh out loud horror comedy, and one gem of a horror title zombie fanatics should seek out.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.