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Review: LES AFFAMÉS (2017) – Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival 2017

While Canada, in general, is known for its output of horror films, those from Quebec haven’t gotten the same attention. While this may not be surprising given the obvious language and cultural differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada and the US, it is disappointing as the province has produced some overlooked gems, most recently Robin Aubert’s zombie film LES AFFAMÉS.

Set in Quebec’s rural farmland, LES AFFAMÉS details the struggles of a small group of survivors who find themselves thrown together by the return of the dead. The group ranges from elderly women to middle-aged men and even a couple of children, and the film focuses as much on them and their relationships with each other as it does the flesh-eating hordes.

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Which is not to say that the film is lacking in horror elements, there are plenty of scares and shocks such as a frantic escape through living dead infested woods, and the gore, while infrequent and somewhat tame by the standards of more extreme zombie films, is made use of quite effectively when needed.

Even the flesh-eaters themselves are a bit different. On the surface, they’re the same fast, brutal killing machines that have been popular since 28 DAYS LATER and the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake but there’s more to them than that. They show a degree of cunning and intelligence not seen in most other films, making rudimentary use of tools and appearing to lure victims into traps. And then there’s the monolith like structures they build with items from their pre-transformation lives. I’d actually have liked to have seen that explored a bit more.

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Despite being a fan of Aubert’s films, especially the bizarre Saints-Martyrs-des-Damnés, I was totally unaware of this film’s existence until I saw it listed as part of this year’s Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival. Even the fest’s organizer hadn’t seen it, having booked it based on the rave review of one of his programmers.

Hopefully, its festival run, including showings at TIFF and Stiges will help raise its profile because LES AFFAMÉS takes a tired sub-genre and pushes it in a new direction, dealing with rural life and connections between people in isolated environments while never forgetting that it’s a horror film first and foremost. And stay through the credits, there’s a final scene that shouldn’t be missed.

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