Foreign films are always a fun little experiment to consume. There’s the obvious language barrier, which requires you to watch with either subtitles or, God forbid, a dub.
There’s also the cultural barrier: You aren’t familiar with the “social rules” of that culture and you aren’t familiar with the quirks and grammar of that culture’s national cinema.
Bio Zombie, a Chinese horror-comedy flick from the late 90s, luckily has an easy point of entry because so much of the movie is dealing with the tropes of American cinema and video game mechanics.
The film centers on a group of characters at a mall, mainly the outwardly macho asshole cowards named Woody and Bee (they rob and almost murder a girl just because they need cash), and the girls they’re pinning for, Jelly and Rolls.
The boys become responsible for bringing zombies into this world when they accidentally hit a mysterious man with their car who just purchased an Iranian chemical weapon that looks like a soda. These dimwits, thinking they’re helping, make the man drink the soda and take him back to the mall in the trunk of their car. Naturally, things don’t go well.
Setting a zombie film in a mall post 1978 draws immediate comparisons to Dawn of the Dead. This automatically puts the film under harsher scrutiny than it maybe deserves. Bio Zombie isn’t interested in being the venomous critique of consumerism that Romero’s classic is, but instead it just wants to be a nasty little B-movie horror comedy; the film can’t help but conjure images, however, that Romero would’ve been proud of, like a group of zombies storming a sushi counter.
The movie goes hard on the comedy part of its horror-comedy bones. If you excise the few scenes in the first act dealing with the evil soft drink, the movie would really be more of a slice of life story in a heightened reality like Mallrats, full of wacky characters and friends ribbing each other.
The movie also is interested in using audience’s familiarity with certain movie and video game tropes for laughs, like having Woody and Bee sitting in a movie theater and talking through the opening credits of the movie we’re watching and using pop up graphics to rely information much like a game.
The zombie makeup is aggressively fake, but its somewhat goofy, mud-mask approach works in the movie’s favor as it is already jokey. What the movie is much more interested in on the zombie side is blood sports. Any chance the movie has to rip off someone’s head, chop off an arm, or shove a power drill into a zombie’s mouth is taken with relish.
The movie tries to go serious for the last fifteen minutes – there’s a sacrifice, a mercy killing, an ambiguous and dark ending – and even though the movie widely veers from tone to tone during the course of its run-time, straight drama isn’t it’s strong suit. The film is never better than when it’s having fun with absurd situations and using those to build tension. The best scene in the movie is when the keys to a set of handcuffs fall into a passed out zombie’s mouth and the characters have to get the keys out without waking the monster. In that moment, the jokes and the horror and the tension combine to make something worth watching.
Watch ‘Bio Zombie’
|Buy the film at Amazon.com|
|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|
Written by: JJ Perkins