Montreal is a city of many cultures. Each neighborhood is unique in its own way and its residents always have a story to tell. That’s why eighteen young filmmakers, fed up with the lack of funding available for their projects, decided to collaborate and create Montreal Dead End. The 85-minute-long horror anthology is comprised of fifteen short stories, set in different boroughs throughout the island.
Montreal Dead End opens with the most quintessential trait of our city: a gigantic pothole. Two construction workers are dispatched to the hole, not to actually fill it, but just to stand around and stare at it (another Montreal feature). All of a sudden, a mysterious green gas shoots out of the pothole and covers the entire cityscape. The gas triggers a series of strange occurrences across the city. An unseen force chases a jogger through the woods of Mont Royal à la Evil Dead. A couple inexplicably switch bodies while kissing in Parc Lafontaine. A man is attacked by floating vegetables purchased at Atwater Market. And, of course, the Hochelaga neighbourhood is infested with large insects.
Like most horror anthologies, parts of the film are brilliantly funny, while others are on the weaker side. My personal favorite scene is of two zombie girls bartering body parts with a zombie merchant in exchange for rotten vegetables, so they can later have a romantic candlelit dinner of severed male genitalia. The only English segment follows a couple searching for brunch in Beaubien, unaware they’re being pursued by possessed fiends, turned murderous from listening to Celine Dion. Probably the strangest segment features an elderly woman in Île Sainte-Hélène being bathed by a legion of whispering children. The most haunting segment is when an Old Montreal tour guide is transported to the past and experiences the difficult lives of Les Filles du Roi, the unmarried French women sent to the New World by Louis XIV as a means to populate the Quebec colony.
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As the city is sent into a state of chaos caused by the green gas, a spiritual Guardian is called upon to remedy the situation. Only he can find the portal and close it using the magic spell book. But his efforts are thwarted by a pro-apocalypse group who want the Guardian’s book for its reincarnation spell. In fact, many desire the power that the book possesses, yet only the Guardian knows how to translate its sacred pages.
Montreal Dead End left a positive impression on me because of its familiarity. I’d be curious to see what an outsider would think of this movie. I don’t see the film making as much of an impact at any other film festival other than Fantasia. As a Montrealer, I can relate to a lot of these situations and I understand most of the jokes: “You do not fuck with smoked meat!” The language itself is difficult to understand for any person from outside the province. The most impressive aspect of Montreal Dead End were the drone shots over the city that tie the segments together. I felt that the film didn’t completely represent my personal experience of Montreal; so much more could have been explored and certain subcultures unique to the city could have been highlighted. But who am I to critique how someone else views the city?
As this project had a limited budget, the special effects came off as really campy. Same with a lot of the acting. That being said, this was an ambitious effort, that involved directing 90 actors, including children, and more than 200 technicians. And their hard work shows. With any luck, Montreal Dead End can be used as a calling card for funding and will kick-start the promising careers of these ambitious filmmakers.
Montreal Dead End had its World Premiere on July 31st at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival. Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!