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2004, Starring Corey Sevier, Stefanie von Pfetten, Kim Poirier, Elias Toufexis, Meghan Ory, Enis Esmer, Krista Morin, Carrie Colak, Richard Burgi. Directed by Matthew Hastings.

Although the heyday of Canada's low-budget horror films ended with the tax shelters, the stateside success of the Ginger Snaps trilogy and a recent change in government funding policy has led to the resurgence not only of genre films, but of genre franchises. Ginger Snaps may have garnered a modicum of critical acclaim by spinning the age-old werewolf story for the fairer sex, but faces north of the border are once again set to go red with Decoys, a conventional teen horror flick that is sure to leave most viewers cold. Blending the sex comedy and the horror film two of the most critically disparaged Canadian subgenres, Decoys is an eye candy-heavy film with absolutely no illusions about what it is. Shocks, and hot (or rather, cold) blondes are served up in equal, PG-13-sized doses, all set to an almost constant rock soundtrack of the greatest Canadian bands you probably never wanted to hear.

At St. John's College, roommates Luke (Corey Sevier) and Roger (Elias Toufexis) hope to melt the ice with blonde bombshells Lily (Stefanie von Pfetten) and Constance (Kim Poirier). But while Roger is busy making elaborate plans to lose his virginity to the first sorority queen that will have him, Luke drunkenly spies the sexy pair spraying each other with liquid nitrogen and sprouting enough tentacles to keep the adult manga industry going for years. After the bodies of several frat boys are found flash-frozen from the inside out, Luke is convinced that the girls are sexual predators from outer space who kill by slipping an icy proboscis down the throats of their victims in the throes of pleasure. His arguments are completely lost on his friends, though, including jive-talking DJ Gibby (Enis Esmer) and Luke's obvious love-interest-in-waiting, the tomboyish Alex (Meghan Ory). Worse, Roger seems determined to bed Constance despite any intergalactic complications. With the help of Alex and a sympathetic cop (Nicole Eggert), Luke tries to save his friends--and himself--from becoming student-sicles by thawing the girl's evil plans before they can conquer the Earth...or at least Canada.

Encompassing science fiction, horror, comedy, and even a little drama and romance, it seems like Decoys is a film that offers something for all audience members. I'll gladly concede that the first third of the film works well enough in this respect, balancing stabs at humour, a bit of sex, and a few scares (albeit cheap jumps via Luke's daydreams), but as the film wears on, Decoys has significant trouble with its tone. Outright slapstick is haphazardly jammed against tender moments between friends, while romantic scenes are juxtaposed with sexual violence it's never obvious in which direction the film is trying to pull its audience, but the results are uniformly jarring.

Besides an annoying habit of dropping unrelated and unresolved plot points in the laps of the viewer--including Luke's oddly unspoken past with Nicole Eggert's cop--first-time writer/director Matt Hastings really sacrifices the film's credibility when he embarks on a strange subplot about the sorority house's "Ice Queen" contest. The invading tentacle-creatures are revealed to be not exactly the tight military unit that you might expect--just petty, jealous aliens, looking for a little non-lethal loving themselves. Even in the film's ribald, campy atmosphere, you have to wonder exactly why the aliens would delay their mission to "take over the Earth one dick at a time" in favour of winning beauty contests.

Also, the performances here are simply not up to snuff. Corey Sevier lacks the needed screen presence to carry the picture, and Elias Toufexis and Meghan Ory are the only ones who manage to do anything with the script's embarrassing, gratuitously "hip" dialogue. While I can appreciate the campy absurdity of a one-liners like "Belt of Orion? How about the belt of O-Fryin!" as Luke cuts loose with a flame thrower, having Nicole Eggert's cop character slide in the same room with a gun while proclaiming "Baby got backup!" is certain to produce far more cringes than chuckles.

First appearances may make Decoys seem like an American horror knock-off, but like all good Canadian horror, this film is very much about a horror from within. This is emphasized nicely by the subtle use of visual tweaking to show the kids freezing up, sub-zero limbs shattering, and in one case, an alien bug crawling out of student's mouth. Not only are there obvious set pieces that further identify Decoys as Canadian (including CFL posters), but the film pays distinct homage to David Cronenberg, even name dropping him at one point, when Alex talks about going to a festival of the famed Canuck director's work. The main conceit of the plot, which has women "raping" guys with their tentacles, seems to owe something to the reversed sexual roles in Rabid, while the girls' alien forms have a definite kinship with the mutated Seth Brundle in The Fly.

While I respect Decoys for its blunt tribute to Canadian horror and the flaunting of its chilly New Brunswick location, I just wish the script could have gotten another polish or two to tighten up some of the plot holes, which extend all the way to the film's preposterous conclusion. As the start of a new Canadian franchise of genre spoofs in the mold of Ginger Snaps, Decoys has to be a bit of a disappointment.

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