Finders F*ckin’ Keepers!

Calling all low-budget sci-fi/horror comedy cinephiles! Do you enjoy scouring Tubi and YouTube for the most bizarre films to binge and brag about watching? Then, oh boy, do we have a winner for you! The Hyperborean (2023) has it all, and then some! It’s classed as a comedy sci-fi on IMDb, but it’s so much more than that. Writer Tony Burgess and director Jesse Cook have birthed a movie that defies classification. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cringe, and you’ll definitely enjoy trying to explain it to the uninitiated.


The Hyperborean begins with an animated sequence that is actually quite beautiful. Animator Anne Davis perfectly captures the vibe of the 1970s-80s educational shorts that Canadian television companies used to broadcast between shows and sets a haunting tone for the coming tale. It shows viewers the backstory to the movie’s central plot: a wealthy man on the verge of retirement from the family business comes up with a grandiose plan to go out with a bang. He hires an expedition crew to go to Mercy Bay on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic, where the ghost ship The Investigator was discovered by Parks Canada in 2011. He’s purchased it, lock stock, and barrel, quite literally. The ship was ice-locked and its last three survivors perished in 1853. Several barrels of whiskey were found on board, and Hollis wants them. Retrieving them in the Arctic terrain will be dicey, but he wants to bottle the world’s only 170-year-old whiskey and make serious cash to leave to his children. To make the story even scarier, The Investigator was in the Arctic in 1853 searching for survivors of the Franklin expedition and their ship, The Terror. If you didn’t study that one in history class, it’s the 1845 expedition that forced its members into a cannibalism situation to avoid starvation. At this point, The Hyperborean feels like it’s going to be a supernatural mystery. But then we meet the characters. 



Hollis Cameron (Tony Burgess), CEO of his family’s whiskey business, is a class-A jackass. He’s pompous, ignorant, and drops more F-bombs than Samuel Jackson. He has secured the whiskey loot from The Investigator in the basement of his lakeside retreat and invites his three adult children for a rooftop dinner to unveil his plans. The children are dysfunctional in different ways and serve the bulk of the comedic lines throughout the film. Diana (Liv Collins) is a sickly artist with a rare disease that forces her to lounge in lingerie beside the lake where she can sketch or faint, as the mood strikes. She doesn’t like her husband Ian (Michael Musurkevitch) which is too bad, because Ian is the only person Hollis trusts to continue his business legacy. Ian is largely inept, but he’s the least offensive of Hollis’s small family. Rex (Ry Barrett) is a man-child who wants to be a cowboy, and his vapid girlfriend Lovie (Jessica Vano) is a self-absorbed internet influencer. Aldous (Jonathan Craig) manages a whiskey-tasting bar for his father, rides a weird bicycle wearing a top hat, and is completely out of touch with reality.

The cast all play their roles well, but it’s their interactions that give their characters depth. Taken individually, none of them are redeemable, but Aldous’s sincere love and worry for his sister Diana is moving in several scenes. Lovie doesn’t seem to be paying attention to anyone but herself, but when push comes to shove she is the one who speaks reason and guides the group to make better decisions. There’s a real reason Rex never grew up, and his Peter Pan syndrome becomes something to pity him for rather than feeling contempt. Hollis, though, seems like an egotistical jerk right up until the end, and then even that is put into question. Maybe everything happened as it did for a very specific, selfless reason, after all?

The majority of the film is arranged in flashbacks, stemming from an interview room where the children are all being questioned by two family lawyers and a Crisis Manager (Justin Bott) they’ve hired to create a story to explain three untimely deaths that happened after that rooftop dinner at the retreat house. The first hour of the movie continues the initial vibe of haunting mystery, but then right at 59 minutes, it flips to something that’s hard to describe without spoilers. 

Laser Blasting Ice Mummy!


From the one-hour mark on, you will rack your memory trying to find other cinematic moments to compare this acid trip to, and will most likely come up short. The closest we came was the laser-eyed llama in Llamageddon. Hyperborea is a real mythological place (Greek/Celtic), considered to be a land located farther north than man can travel. Residents of Hyperborea were said to be indestructible, and only gods could navigate the seas to get there. The “Hyperborean” in this film is something else entirely, and you seriously just have to see it to believe it. There’s a lot of forehead smacking and eye-rolling in store for the viewer after that one-hour mark, but there are some pretty fantastic elements to enjoy, too. 

Jonathan Craig (who also plays Aldous) nailed the special effects. The ice mummies in particular look very much like real bog bodies rather than the stereotypical semi-preserved rot we see in other mummy/zombie films. And the leg, THE LEG! You’ll want to rewind one particular scene and re-watch it a few times to fully absorb the details put into the leg. Adrian Ellis and George Flores deserve awards for their music and sound arranging throughout the film. It flows seamlessly and supports the visual aspects so well that some of the more subtle moments may have been lost with different audio tracks. Editor Mike Gallant has already been nominated for his work on this project. It will also be of interest to fans of Canadian horror that writer Tony Burgess (who also plays Hollis Cameron) wrote the highly popular film Pontypool (2008). If you enjoyed Pontypool, you’ll love this one, too! 

In summary, please do not deprive yourself of the experience that is The Hyperborean. It’s showing this week at Blood In The Snow Film Festival (Toronto), and well worth the price of admission.

We watched The Hyperborean (2023) at Blood In The Snow Film Festival 2023.

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