It is tempting to call Jeff Sinasac’s Red Spring a vampire film for The Walking Dead generation. The film features a group of survivors thrown together in a land ravaged by vampires with only each other to rely on. However, such a simplistic comparison does a disservice to all the things that makes Sinasac’s tale so riveting to watch.

Set in a world where vampires now out number humans, the story centers around Ray (played by Sinasac) a man who is searching for confirmation that his loved ones are alive, dead or something in between. Roaming the streets of Toronto in a van with four other survivors (Reece Presley, Lindsey Middleton, Adam Cronheim, and Jonathan Robbins) Ray quest for closure. When the vampires begin to lock down city streets, Ray and company have no option but to head for the countryside in hopes of living to fight another day.

The group’s fortunes seem to turn around when they meet Vicky (Elysia White), a woman who has access to a bomb shelter that they can potentially lay low in. Of course, the down side to such a hideout is that it limits their options of escape if things go horribly wrong.

Red Spring may be a vampire inspired story, but the bloodsuckers are not the focal point. While some directors spend their time making their vampires “sexy” or “cool”, Sinasac’s monsters are beings who, while intelligent, only care about finding their next meal. This allows the film to focus not on the hunters, but rather the prey. It could be argued that the biggest surprise about Red Spring is that it is an engaging character study first and foremost.

Sinasac crafts fully realized characters who audiences would love to be stuck in a bunker with. Even when the film treads into the realm of convention to move the plot forward, do not get me started on the decisions Jonathan Robbin’s Carlos makes, the group dynamics remains captivating. The injection of humour in all the right places ensures that the survivor’s interactions feel natural given their circumstances. Kudos to Sinasac for not making Vicky merely a potential love for Ray, but rather a confident woman who can more than handle her own in tough situations.

Red Spring does occasionally dip toes into familiar tropes just to up the body count, but it never uses it as a crutch. The film manages to build its tension and action slowly, offering a thrilling experience despite the limitations of its budget. A pleasant surprise from beginning to end, and featuring strong performances from its ensemble cast, Red Spring is a film worth sinking your fangs into.

Thursday, November 23, 9:30 PM, The Royal Cinema

Full Blood in the Snow ticket information can be found at the festival’s website.