Welcome to Peacock Island! An isolated isle situated in Quebec that is only connected to the mainland by a single long bridge and this aptly named location hosts several showy and appearance-focused inhabitants. Peacock prides itself on the high level of wealth and prestige the residents demonstrate. However, the cold and snowy climate of Canada robs the rich of what they covet the most: golf. Fortunately for the 18 hole-deprived members of the island, if you throw enough money at a problem, it will eventually go away. To bring out the lush putting greens and fairways from beneath the thick snow, a chemical (which defies the laws of nature)is created. Now thanks to advances in chemical development, Peacock Island gets the personal benefit of a brand-new fertilizer that can melt snow and make grass green and perfect regardless of the temperature. Regrettably, all-year golf has just one tiny drawback. The miraculous fertilizer also turns people into flesh-hungry zombies. Premiering at Fantasia Fest, the Québécois horror film BRAIN FREEZE written and directed by Julien Knafo brings a little zombie fun with some tongue-in-cheek comedy, but what the film best fulfills is everyone’s desire to ‘eat the rich.’
In the middle of the night, a hazmat suit-wearing crew dusts the dark landscape with a bright green crystalline substance. The mysterious glowing material promises pleasure but spraying the fertilizer well after the sun has set indicates the chemicals might not be above board and need to be distributed under the cover of shadows. In the light of day, Peacock Island takes on a less sinister appearance as we see McMansion after McMansion in a snowy neighborhood which just exudes privilege. The young André (Iani Bédard) pays little attention to his lavish surroundings, to girls, or even to on-coming traffic because all his focus remains on his phone and his music. The lonely security guard Dan (Roy Dupuis) tries upbraiding André, but with no success. Not surprising considering even Dan’s own daughter does not listen to him.
So, after a long day of being ignored, Dan takes the lone bridge back to the mainland where he returns to his small house and tv dinner. With no one to come home to, Dan fancies himself a bit of a survivalist after listening to an alarmist-centered radio talk show. However, he’s just not very good at it. And back on the island, André attempts his own level of survival after the nanny leaves for the day and his baby sister becomes agitated. His mom’s obsession with work and working out leaves her little time for her children, so teenager André lives on his phone and seems to sustain himself on Coca-Cola. The small main cast makes you appreciate Dupuis and Bédard’s interactions with special attention to the character of André and how the film does not force him to abandon his Zoomer tendencies but instead finds a way to embrace his habits.
After the opening introduction of the two main characters, we quickly learn the chemical shown in the opening scene does not stay contained to the golf course and instead makes its way into the local water supply. From homemade kale juice to soaking in a hot tub, the poison finds a way to take over almost the entire population of Peacock Island. Soon the snotty high-maintenance people become fast, snarling zombies with bright green eyes. A man attacks his lover. A beloved fur-baby takes a bite out of its owner. And most deservedly, the rich try to eat each other. One enjoyable aspect BRAIN FREEZE brings to the zombie genre comes later in the film when the full impact of the fertilizer becomes revealed. The added effect of the chemicals on the undead lets the make-up crew of the film stretch their abilities beyond just creating pale skin and glowing eyes.
The rest of Quebec does not want zombies banging on their door, so the only route off the island gets unceremoniously bombed, leaving Dan, André, and baby Annie to figure out how to combine their skills and know-how to outlast and eventually escape the now undead-ridden island. As someone from a colder part of the world, I really love seeing zombies in a winter climate. The north so rarely gets to enjoy a good undead invasion. People dressed in winter gear while frothing at the mouth and chasing down prey through snow and ice just brings a different aesthetic to the screen than the typical summer outings for reanimated corpses.
For a zombie-comedy, the film could have offered a bit more horror or a bit more satire to keep the pacing of BRAIN FREEZE consistent throughout, but the commentary on the power of alarmists and some likable characters makes the film overall a fun snowy-undead romp.
BRAIN FREEZE had its world premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.