“Dead Shack” (Fantasia 2017): Nothing Brings Together a Family Like Blood, Grue, & Zombies

Just because a family is dysfunctional does not mean that its members do not care for each other. In Dead Shack (Fantasia 2017), 14-year-old Jason (Matthew Nelson-Mahood) joins his friend Collin’s (Gabriel LaBelle) family for a vacation at an isolated cabin. On the plus side, Colln’s older sister Summer (Lizzie Boys) is along for the trip, though she does barely tolerate Jason. On the negative side, the adults – Collin and Summer’s father Roger (Donavon Stinson) and his young girlfriend Lisa (Valerie Tian) – are drunk and irresponsible. To make matters worse, while on a walk, the kids have just overseen their neighbor (Lauren Holly) drug and possibly kill two local douchebag bros. They soon discover the neighbor’s real motive – providing food for the rest of her family, who just happen to be zombies. Seeing as Roger and Lisa are too busy drinking and playing Strip Go Fish to care, it is up to the kids to find out what is going on and maybe even come to the rescue.

Dead Shack is one of the wittiest, goopiest, and most enjoyable zombedies of recent years. Writer/director Peter Ricq, along with his co-writers Phil Ivanusic and Davila LeBlanc, have put together a script that is genuinely funny and oddly heartfelt while still being filled with the kind of blood and guts enjoyed by most zombie fans. A good script deserves a talented cast, and Dead Shack has both. Lauren Holly is clearly having a blast as the villainous  neighbor and even manages to make what could have been a one-dimensional  antagonist a bit more rounded and sympathetic. Donavon Stinson and Valerie Tian play probably some of the least responsible adults ever in Roger and Lisa, but they make them so likable that the audience is pulling for them and their dysfunctional brood to make it through unscathed. The rest of the cast is equally talented, though special note should be given to the younger stars – Lizzie Boys, Matthew Nelson-Mahood, and Gabriel LaBelle – who have great chemistry and show fantastic comedic timing. Like the best horror comedies, Dead Shack has the audience really care for the protagonists and long to see them make it through all of the blood, brains, and grue.

Dead Shack is playing as part of the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada.

Dead Shack (Fantasia 2017)  4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)

Paul Cardullo
Paul Cardullo is a North Carolina indy filmmaker and horror fan. His tastes range from art-house horror to low-budget schlock to indie gems to Slovenia killer hillbilly flicks. When not watching films, he helps make them. From actor to boom operator to doughnut wrangler, he makes himself useful wherever he can. Paul believes it is sometimes necessary to suffer for one’s art. He has endured being covered in [censored], having [censored] thrown at him, and spending over a year with muttonchops and a 70’s-style mustache. When not being abused for the sake of his craft, Paul works on computers and watches as many obscure (and not so obscure) movies as he can fit in.