Since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, humans turned flesh-eating monsters have become a staple in horror and for good reason. They’re inherently terrifying, which lends itself to more serious genre fare, yet we often see them portrayed in horror comedies like Return of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland (just to name a few). Now streaming exclusively on Shudder, Peter Ricq’s Dead Shack is very much cut from the same cloth, blending carnage and comedy into 80-minutes of nonstop bloody mayhem. In it, while staying at a run-down cabin in the woods during the weekend, three teenagers must save their parents from the neighbor who intends to feed them to her undead family.
If you’re anything like me, then you can appreciate the hell out of a movie like Dead Shack, which is a no bullshit, nasty-over-narrative zombie comedy. There’s no fat to trim and it doesn’t bother explaining any of its undead antics. Instead, Ricq’s film is interested in only a few things: blood and guts, and how much of it can be squeezed into 80-minutes of film. Which turns out to be a lot, by the way.
And surrounded by Ricq’s mad world is a handful of characters that could only exist in a movie like this—they’re appropriately foolish and continually make bad situations even worse. One of the things I noticed almost immediately about the film is that nearly every line of dialog is weighted in some kind of humor; Dead Shack never takes itself seriously and its characters act accordingly. And while a lot of it works—there are plenty of great, quotable moments throughout—that constant and sometimes forceful comedic tone makes it feel like there’s nothing at stake here. You never worry about the characters because they never seem worried.
That hardly gets in the film’s way, however, because it’s constantly rifling through one joke after another, and following it up with a shit load of carnage. So even though the characters never become anything more than one-dimensional one-liners, it’s at least entertaining as hell to watch. My only real complaint, and the reason why I think the film holds itself back in a way, is that everything about Dead Shack feels like it was created by some kind of horror movie generator (if one existed, that is). It has nothing original to say or do, and it covers a lot of the same ground we’ve seen out of the genre already (and countless times before). The story itself has almost no meaning and nothing is explained or explored; that goes for its characters, too.
But to be fair, Dead Shack was always designed to be about splattery fun, which is exactly what it delivers. While you’re not going to get anything you’ve never seen before, there’s plenty of wonderful moments that come to life through a handful of hilarious characters and glorious gore. That’s gotta count for something, right? Oh, and one more thing: there’s a brilliant gag in the film where one character is trying to take a piss while a zombie fight breaks out and it is just so damn good. That’s some next-level comedy right there.