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Fantasia Film Fest 2021: Brain Freeze and Seobok bring familiar but pleasing genre flair

Images from Seobok and Brain Freeze
Images from Seobok and Brain Freeze. Pic credit: Well Go USA/Palomar Films

Today we continue our coverage from Fantasia Fest 2021 with two more reviews of a pair of genre films that share commonalities. These movies are the plant-based zombie movie Brain Freeze and the sincere sci-fi actioner, Seobok.

Both films have strong elements that make them enjoyable but at the same time, might be too familiar in their respective genres.

Brain Freeze was the opening act for Fantasia Fest following The Suicide Squad and Seobok was made available On Demand for attendees.

Are they both worth watching at Fantasia Fest? Here are our capsule reviews for both movies.

Brain Freeze review at Fantasia Film Festival

Brain Freeze centers on two distinct characters caught in the most unusual zombie apocalypse. The first character André (Iani Bédard) is a teenage boy who finds himself being the sole caretaker of his sister after his mother becomes a zombie from drinking contaminated water mixed with kale.

The second central character is Dan (Roy Dupuis) a neighborhood security worker who fancies himself a dabbler in the art of survival techniques. Throughout the film, Dan practices making fire without a lighter as well as other techniques to survive in case of unforeseen peril.

Dan also has a daughter that has turned into a zombie and he keeps her face in a helmet-like cage to prevent her from snacking on others.

Unlike most zombie affairs, Brain Freeze definitely has the most incomparable approach to a zombie outbreak in recent memory.

Director and writer Julien Knafo gives the zombies an algae-like element – and by that we mean the infected are mutating into grass. And for some reason this makes them become violent zombies. Why this makes them become flesh-eating zombies is not clear to this writer upon first viewing. But either way, the idea definitely deserves points for originality.

On top of this, there seems to be a subtle amount of humorous satire here involving the rich making stupid decisions that inevitably get the public killed (definitely not a familiar theme in 2021).

Iani Bédard (André) & Claire Ledru (Annie) from Brain Freeze.
Iani Bédard (André) & Claire Ledru (Annie) from Brain Freeze. Pic credit: Palomar Films

Brain Freeze also has a nice color palette, with most of its visual texture having a bleached-washed white with various textures of green throughout. Needless to say, Marc Simpson-Threlford nailed the aesthetic with his method of photography.

Brain Freeze’s only setback is beyond the fresh approach to zombies, there is not much new here that we have not seen before in films like Zombieland or even Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. That said, the genre has been so oversaturated with content, it’s almost impossible to find undiscovered territory.

Still, Julien Knafo directed Brain Freeze confidently despite its familiar journey. The film itself has great character writing that keeps us invested in their fates. Moreso, Knafo was able to make a baby have an essential role in the film. And directing an infant on its own should be commended.

For the most part, Brain Freeze may not defy genre conventions but its characters, pleasing aesthetic, and confident direction make it a good time for viewers at Fantasia Fest 2021.

Seobok review from Fantasia Film Festival

Gong Yoo as Ki Heon and Bo-gum as Seo Bok in Seobok. Pic credit: Well Go USA

Seobok also follows the Brain Freeze model in being entertaining but seemingly familiar.

The film centers on Ki Heon (Gong Yoo) an ex-government officer who has been tasked with protecting an extraordinary individual. This gifted young man named Seo Bok (Bo-gum) is described to Ki Heon as the first human clone and might hold the key to immortality.

Ki Heon himself has a brain tumor and does not have a long life ahead of him. And those who created Seo Bok explain that if Heon can transport him safely, Seo Bok might possess the cure for the cancer inside him.

But just like in most movies, once someone has the key to immortality, everyone wants a piece of it. Thus, begins a turbulent road trip involving everyone trying to either kill Seo Bok or take him. And in order for Ki Heon to live, they both must survive.

Seobok is another movie that while entertaining, feels similar to a lot of other films to a fault. By that, we mean the narrative trope involving a main character who is an expert in combat/fighting having to protect an exceptional character--whether it’s someone with powers, a cure, or intelligence. For example, Logan, Mercury Rising, even video games like The Last of Us.

Where Seobok departs on being different is its commentary on existence and purpose. The relationship journey between Seo Bok and Ki Heon is the anchor for the whole film as Ki Heon is grappling with his mortality and Seo Bok wrestles with his existence period. And as the two men battle to survive, a sweet bond forms between them as they reflect on their own significance.

Is it the most original film in the sci-fi genre? Absolutely not. However, between the decent action and the chemistry between the two leads, Seobok entertains enough to be a fun watch during one’s visit at Fantasia.

Be sure and check out our previous reviews from Fantasia Film Festival 2021 including Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break and our combined reviews of Alien on Stage and Sweetie You Won’t Believe.

Stay tuned for more reviews from Fantasia Film Festival 2021 at Monsters & Critics.

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