Frightfest and Blue Finch Releasing present Brain Freeze; on digital from the 6th of September.
Let me start this review with a statement: I’m not fond of golf; in fact, I hate it! There, I said it. Everything about golf makes me angry, from the fenced-off land used for just a privileged few to the snobbery surrounding each stuck-up clubhouse. Thankfully, it appears I am not alone in this anger, as Brain Freeze director and co-writer Julien Knafo takes a nine-iron to class, greed, golf, climate change denial and nationalism in his intelligent new zombie horror/comedy Brain Freeze. At the heart of Knafo’s Quebec-based apocalypse is a golf course, where keeping the grass green and playable appears to trump any welfare concerns.
It may be midwinter, but the golf course on Peacock Island is bright green, with not a sprinkling of snow covering its surface. This perfect green oasis is a new invention, a special fertiliser that allows grass to grow in even the coldest of conditions, its bright green shoots melting any snow that dares to lay on its luscious carpet. But what would happen if this new fertiliser made its way into the water supply? Well, the residents of Peacock Island are about to find out!
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André (Iani Bédard) is a typical teen; addicted to his phone, coca-cola, online video games and social media. Meanwhile, his health-nut mum is forever at work, while their Mexican maid looks after André’s baby sister in their small gated community. Just up the road, Dan (Roy Dupuis) holds a job as a security officer for the island’s wealthy communities while his daughter works at the local golf course, where she tends to the needs of the mega-rich. However, as a mysterious illness takes hold that turns the victims green while giving them a taste for their fellow residents, Dan, André, and his baby sister will find themselves thrown together as the apocalypse nears.
Knafo laces his zombie tale with bags of dry wit and humour while pointing his lens at themes of genetically engineered crops, environmental protection, human greed, and wealth. But Brain Freeze doesn’t stop there, as it also dissects themes of borders, immigration and growing global nationalism with a sharp satirical knife.
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However, with so many ideas and political discussions at play, Brain Freeze also sometimes trips up on its own intelligence. Here the runtime never allows for a broader exploration of many of the discussions it attempts to raise. But the sheer bravery of the screenplay and its ability to transcend the bog-standard zombie flick is undoubtedly admirable. Meanwhile, André and Dan make for an engaging odd couple, their relationship one of convenience and necessity as the deadly green zombies slowly turn into the grass – a delightful play on the fragility and arrogance of humans in the face of nature. The result is a midwinter tale of green-sprouting zombies that is delightfully different. Here, its snow-covered landscapes further highlight the virus’s vivid green as the clinical and sterile suburban landscape is slowly gobbled up by nature.
Brain Freeze is as refreshing as a deep green smoothly on a hot day, or maybe that should be a warm mug of milk on a cold day. Whichever you prefer, Brain Freeze bathes in its creativity and vision, and that’s rare in a cinematic world of tried and tested zombie flicks.
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