They key to a good horror anthology is unity of theme. This theme can be just about anything, as long as it’s woven throughout the film in a way that pulls the audience along. Over the years we’ve seen anthologies centered on different holidays, on artistic styles, on specific actors, or on a specific subgenre. MONTREAL DEAD END tries something a little different and focuses its narrative on the culture and inside jokes of an entire city.
MONTREAL DEAD END starts with an evil presence oozing up from the thousands of potholes all around Montreal (never has there been a better inside joke for Montrealers than this). The film follows various people from neighborhoods all over the city like Outremont or Centre-Ville as this evil possesses them and has them act out in strange and violent ways.
The various vignettes in this film run the gamut from silly slapstick, all the way to deeply disturbing. We have a body-swapping couple attacked by a man with penises growing out of his face, a man attacked in his kitchen by killer vegetables, and an oblivious young couple narrowly escaping attack by a hoard of zombies possessed by Celine Dion music. On the other end of the spectrum, we have some terrifying sequences like a jogger attacked on Mont Royal by an Evil Dead-esque spirit in the forest, or a young tour guide brought back into the terrifying times of Les Filles Du Roy.
Honestly, I’m not a Montrealer, though it is one of my favorite cities to visit. So, I’m sure there are many more inside jokes and cultural references in this film that flew straight over my head. Even so, this was fast-paced and keenly entertaining ride through a truly unique and beautiful city. Not every vignette was very effective, and I thought the framing narrative of an indigenous guardian battling an apocalyptic cult to save the city was underutilized. Still, there are more than enough memorable scenes here to satisfy even the most cynical of audiences.
I would love to see other Canadian cities take on projects like MONTREAL DEAD END. I’m sure it’s a real treat for the locals, and as difficult as it is to travel across Canada on a regular basis, I think we can all benefit from a humorous and insightful glance into the unique cultures our cities have to offer. If you’re planning a trip to Montreal, maybe checking out MONTREAL DEAD END will give you some good tips of what to enjoy (or avoid) while you’re there.