Dead Shack is the story of three kids going on vacation to a cabin in the woods with their father and his girlfriend. Exploring the remote area, they discover an old house on private property with lots of abandoned cars. While snooping around, they witness their neighbour (Lauren Holly) drugging a couple bros and feeding them to her zombies. When they try to tell their father, things go more than awry and the kids are forced to save the day. This Peter Ricq directed film kicked off Zombie Night at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Described as "Stranger Things meets Shaun of the Dead," it definitely lived up to the zombie comedy portion but I didn't get a huge Stranger Things vibe from Dead Shack. The zombies in Dead Shack didn't stray from typical zombies, but what was interesting was the isolated setting of the infection. This was not an apocalyptic, widespread infection with massive zombie hordes surrounding our heroes. As far as the film reveals, this infection appears to be localized to this one family out in the woods. So there may not have been many zombies to kill, but boy did they do it up in epic fashion. Heads and limbs get blown off, zombies eat characters you don't really like. The deaths were rather satisfying.
Music Composed by Humans, Not Zombies
I found it funny that a zombie movie specified "music composed by humans." Humans of course being director Peter Ricq's electro pop duo with Robbie Slade. This 80's electro-synth score really created a great atmosphere from the opening sequence, and was perhaps why Dead Shack was described as part Stranger Things. But other than the score, there was no retro nostalgic feeling. A more fitting description would have been Shaun of the Dead with teens.
The characters make up a strange but lovable family. Donavon Stinson stands out as the lenient father, looking to party and "see some crazy shit." The kids trying to deal with him in his drunk stupor as he looks for the "sexy cannibal" is absolutely hilarious. Along with his son, played by Gabriel LaBelle, there are more than a few memorable lines and moments. Starting off with some pretty solid Dad jokes, I knew this script was going to be that silly humor that you either love or hate. While the dialogue provided a bunch of laughs, what really got me were the small details in the frame. A zombie mauling a guy in a car with an ironic bumper sticker, or little blood splatters over the shoulder of the drunk father while he tries to chat with his son oblivious to the zombies getting smashed to bits behind him.
Gear Up and See Dead Shack
The zombie armour pieced together from tools and sporting equipment from a shed are both bad-ass and comedic. It was actually a still of the kids in costume that grabbed my interested in Dead Shack in the first place. After all, what zombie comedy would be complete without a gearing up montage?
Dead Shack was a wacky fun zombie adventure, a must watch for fans of the horror-comedy genre. For me it didn't top my favorites like The Final Girls or Tucker & Dale vs. Evil that derive their humor from subverting tropes of the genre, but it is still certainly one to watch. If blood, gore, and laughs are up your alley, you won't be disappointed.