It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before, and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.

For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

After a week of 70s Spanish zombie horror, we decided to make Good Friday a bit of a palate cleanser before tackling two nights of double features. The 2017 Canadian comedy-horror of Dead Shack was exactly what the doctor ordered.  

When fourteen-year-old Jason (Matthew Nelson-Mahood) heads off for a weekend at a rental cabin in the woods with the family of his best friend Colin (Gabriel LaBelle), his older sister Summer (Lizzie Boys), their trying-very-hard-to-be-cool dad Roger (Donavon Stinson) and his new girlfriend Lisa (Valerie Tian), they didn’t count on the neighbor being a damaged mom (Lauren Holly) with a zombie husband and kids. They definitely weren’t prepared for the fact that the neighbor has been luring dudes to her house, drugging them, and feeding them to her family for the past ten years. But when they find out, all hell breaks loose.

I’m gonna go ahead and say it up front. Lauren Holly is the biggest name in this film and the weakest link when it comes to performances. Maybe she was a fan of Humans, the band that writer/director Peter Ricq is half of (and who provide the soundtrack for the film)? I don’t know. It was nice to see her, since I haven’t been keeping up with her career, even though she works steadily, but she really didn’t bring her A-game here.

Luckily, it really doesn’t affect the film much at all, since the real focus in on the kids and their drunk dad (who is channeling Jason Mantzoukas in the best of all possible ways).

Ricq, directing his first feature film, has done the smart thing, leaning into the comedy side of Dead Shack, but when it comes time for the horror to kick in, he doesn’t skimp on the violence and gore. This can be a tricky situation to manage, but thankfully Nelson-Mahood, LaBelle, and Boys are naturally charismatic and work together really well.

Jason is crushing on Colin’s older sister Summer and the three go exploring while dad Roger and Lisa get stupid drunk. They discover the neighbor’s house, its property littered with abandoned cars and what we know is a burn barrel. When they see the Neighbor (that’s the only name given) pull up with two drunken frat guys, they think they might have to opportunity to spy on a threesome.

To be fair, Jason and Summer aren’t that cool with the idea, but Colin is a horny fourteen-year-old, so they go along.

Instead, they see the guys drink drugged wine, pass out, and then a zombie crawls out and starts feasting. From this point on, the action is fast and furious, and before you know it, drunk dad is staggering over to the neighbor’s house to see what’s going on with the local cannibals, despite the kids trying to stop him.

This leads, of course, to a lot of bloody carnage and an all-around fun time for me as a viewer. If I hadn’t watched this after four nights of dour, super-serious Knights Templars and folk horror, it might not have been as enjoyable, but hey, it is what it is. The kids get a fun gearing-up montage and then go head-to-head with Holly’s body armored-up Neighbor and before too long we have losses on both sides which leads to a seriously surprising dark and bloody climax.

I was kind of expecting a final twist before the credits rolled, but Ricq holds back and leaves Dead Shack as a one-and-done film with no sequel possibilities.

Unless we cut away just a moment too soon before the credits rolled?

Clocking in at 85-minutes, Dead Shack is a quick, fun, and bloody good time that is currently streaming on Shudder. It’s not heavy on scares and the zombies are practically an afterthought with no explanation, but if you like admittedly juvenile humor there’s a dark streak to this film that delivers in the end.

I should probably go back and check how many times the word ‘fun’ was used in this review.

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