Blood in the Snow Film Festival is an annual film fest held in Toronto with a mandate to support, promote, and exhibit independent Canadian horror, genre, and underground film.
Opening the Blood in the Snow Film Festival was Red Spring, a vampire movie that plays like a zombie film. The first time I encountered this type of treatment was Jim Mickle’s Stake Land. Personally, I thought it worked great and I’ll admit I’m surprised the idea didn’t catch on. That’s good news for Red Spring because now it means Jeff Sinasac’s movie doesn’t play like just another vampire flick.
The vampocalypse happened at some indistinct point in the past. Not so long ago that our heroes have settled into their new lives in the new world, but just enough time has passed that the government’s failure to save its people is still a raw, open wound. After the vampocalypse, the few humans left in the world have to keep moving lest they become food for the undead. But life on the road is tiresome and ultimately pointless; there’s nowhere you can go where the vampires won’t eventually find you. This bleak outlook underscores much of the film, but thankfully stops short of being overwhelming nihilistic.
The film beings with the aftermath of a vamp attack on a government shelter, in which dozens of folks were slaughtered. Enter Ray, who is looking for his wife and daughter, and who stubbornly chooses to believe they’re not dead. Any other zombie film would follow Ray as he desperately searches for his family, risking everyone (and everyone around him) in the process. But Red Spring isn’t any other zombie movie, and Ray leaves the shelter to join his fellow survivors in the relative safety of their van.
Each person in the van has been given the opportunity to learn the fate of their loved ones, Ray being the last in line as his personal journey means traveling to Toronto, deep into vampire territory. The rag-tag group successfully books it out of town before sunset, and somewhere between Toronto and nowhere they pick up another survivor, Vicky.
Vicky’s headed to Kincardine, where she plans to wait out the end of the world, and she invites the others to stay with her. Vicky’s reasoning as to why everyone would be much better off cooling their heels in Kincardine rather than freezing their asses off way up north is some of the best reasoning encountered in any contemporary vampire or zombie movie. Unable to counter her logic, self-appointed team leader Mitchel accepts her offer and the group settles in but not before an unfortunate run-in with a familiar gang of vamps.
What happens next is all pretty straightforward, if a touch predictable at times, all of which reaffirms Red Spring’s cinematic influences. Zombie films are tragedies, and Red Spring is no different in this regard. But rather than position its vampires as mindless, food-motivated monsters, creator Sinasac has bestowed upon them some brains. Vampires can drive and shoot, they can speak and write, and are capable of organized, linear thought. In fact, the vamps’ high-functioning abilities are what led to the fall of civilization. Unfortunately, this vampocalypse backstory clashes somewhat with the vampires present on screen who appear to be little more than bloodthirsty pack animals.
That’s not to say Red Spring isn’t entertaining, and the film does succeed where so many others fail—it’s sad when people die. Is it a touch too long? Yes. Does it deliver a better zombie-type plot than many zombie movies? Also yes. Red Spring’s uncommon approach to the genre is a refreshing change for anyone who’s tired of the same old zombie movie or vampire film or both.