Today at Fantasia

Our critics are split on a movie out of slasher flicks 101 and the return of Nazi zombies.

The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, on through Aug. 7.


No film genre has suffered as much from its own deconstruction as the slasher film has. Since Scream outlined the “rules” of the genre in 1997, filmmakers have been trying desperately to top each other in terms of self-awareness. The genre is pretty much played out at this point, and even an effort as classically solid as Preservation comes off as rote and tired. It’s a slick, decent effort as far as the genre goes, but in a crowd this saturated, that barely clears the bar as mediocre.

Married couple Wit (Wrenn Schmidt, of Boardwalk Empire) and Mike (Aaron Staton, of Mad Men) decide to go on a hunting trip with Mike’s ex-army, PTSD’d-out brother Sean (Pablo Schreiber, aka Orange Is the New Black’s Pornstache), just like they did as children. They break into a deserted Californian nature preserve and settle in to a night of boozy bonding. When they wake up in the morning, however, all of their stuff is gone; they find themselves barefoot and unequipped in the wilderness, hunted by a crew of masked assailants.

Preservation’s set-up is so bog-standard, it should be studied in writing programs as an example of rudimentary screenwriting. The characters are pretty broadly defined, and yet the 45 minutes of character development that makes up the first half of the film serves only to justify plot twists later on. (Will the vegan character that’s morally opposed to hunting have to stamp down on their convictions in order to kick some ass? You betcha. Will there be the moment where a character suddenly feels compassion for their assailants, only for it to blow up in their face? Oh yes.) It’s as generic as anything that came out of the post-Scream boom, but more visually slick and better cast.

Preservation’s only major subversion of the genre is that it takes place almost entirely in daylight, a welcome change from the usual murky nighttime slash fest. Christopher Denham (this is his second film after the found-footage flick Home Movie, which screened at Fantasia in 2008) has a strong grasp on the visual language of slashers, but the final product is one we’ve seen countless times in similar configurations. (Alex Rose)

Preservation screens today, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 5:20 p.m.

Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead

If Nazi zombies, let alone Red Army zombies, are not enough to motivate you to see Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, I doubt there’s much I can do to change your mind, but I’ll try.

While Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead begins exactly where its predecessor left off, it is an entirely different animal, and oh what a beautiful beast it is. The film is first and foremost a comedy. Unlike the original, there is little to no tension, suspense or terror to Red vs. Dead. There is, of course, one hell of a lot of blood, guts and gory death. The premise is that that the Nazi zombies now have their gold and they leave the mountain to complete their mission and seek revenge for their deaths.

This is complicated by a series of amputations and limb reattachments that see Martin, the lone survivor, and Herzog, the Nazi colonel, switch right forearms. This switch bestows Herzog’s undead powers on Martin, who, once he gets the hang of things, uses them to try and stop the Nazi zombies once and for all. Add some inept rural Norwegian police, an American Zombie Squad (led by Martin Starr), various living and dead sidekicks, and you have everything you need for a hilarious horror flick that is, at times, reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead or Army of Darkness. Do yourself a favour and see Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead with a Fantasia audience — you won’t regret it. (Katie Ferrar)

Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead screens today, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 4:30 p.m.
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $10 each, or online ($11 each), here.