A beaten and bloodied man stumbles out of a shack in the middle of the woods just before dawn. Limping, he stumbles into the truck out front and locks himself inside. Suddenly, a terrifying faceless figure stomps out onto the porch in full combat gear from head to toe, silently watching the man struggle to escape, waiting patiently, shotgun in hand. Without a word, the figure approaches the car, and slowly opens the driver side door. A creature on all fours emerges form the shadows of the house and crawls into the car. There’s only screams now. Only torment. With the loose end tied up, the figure stalks back onto the patio, removing a black riot helmet and ski cap. Long blonde hair falls onto the figures’ shoulders – it is a beautiful woman with a deadly secret, and as she takes a sip from her beer can, she gazes fondly at the ghastly site in front of her, satisfied. Her work here is done – for now. This is Peter Ricq’s Dead Shack, and out here, no one is safe.
Summer and Colin believe that their biggest worry this weekend is dealing with their dad Roger’s young alcoholic girlfriend, but they couldn’t be more wrong. With Colin’s sweet little best friend Jason in tow, the gang is dragged up to a desolate vacation spot in the middle of the forest, and forced to make their own fun in a place so run down and out of reach that even dial-up would call it outdated. The kids are all dreading the boredom they’re about the endure, but by the time this weekend’s events are over, they’ll all wish they had just stayed in the cabin and played Scrabble.
They say something they weren’t supposed to see. While wandering out in the woods, the gang stumbles upon another little wooden shack and watches through the window as a pretty woman drugs two naïve frat boys and feeds them to whatever-the-hell-that-thing-is-that-just-crawled-in-from-the-basement. Panicked, the kids rush off in a hurry, but not before alerting their new sick and twisted neighbor to their presence. Now the game is on, and with the sun setting, not a soul in sight, and their drunken father more concerned with getting into his girlfriend’s pants than standing guard against some insane forest-dweller, it’s up to this motley crew of inexperienced baby-faced sweethearts to put an end to their neighbor’s reign of terror, and destroy the undead creatures lurking behind her closed doors for good.
Dead Shack starts out stronger than it finishes, but it’s still a cute little cannibal movie for film fans who prefer a little humor with their headshots. Personally, I started to slightly lose interest once I realized it was a zombie movie – really, another one? – but it’s still enough of a twist on the tired subgenre to feel somewhat innovative and fresh. It was just so much cooler when it came across as a movie about a woman feeding her feral sister human specimen. Basically, this is a movie that requires you to buy into its gimmick for it to really work its magic. You need to be okay with it being a zombie movie. You need to be able to accept the fact that the characters are going to make a lot of really questionable decisions in order to keep the plot moving forward. You need to agree with the endearing nature that the movie inevitably manifests, despite the fact that it began on a much darker note. And finally, you need to be okay with the idea that the “neighbor” lady is going to lose her cool about halfway through the film, and change from a silent deadly weapon into a clumsy whiney villain for the sake of comedy. If you are open to it, Dead Shack is downright hilarious at times. Donovan Stinson is definitely the highlight of the movie as the goofy beer guzzling “cool dad” who just can’t earn his kids’ respect, and it’s hard to say whether or not the comedic beats would land as well as they do without him. The kids are quite adorable, as they gear up in an Evil Dead 2-inspired montage while they prep battle against the newly turned. It’s a really fun, sweet little horror movie, which is beautifully shot by DP Christopher Charles Kempinski, whose previous work includes Supernatural and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, it just requires you to take a bit on faith to fully enjoy the ride. So buy the ticket and strap in, because if you commit to it fully, Dead Shack turns out to be a surprisingly effective and adorable zombie movie, and one that’s definitely worth checking out – preferably with a crowd.