GORE IN THE STORE
ZOMBIE FOR SALE ****
Directed by Lee Min-Jae.
Starring Ga-rum Jung, Soo-kyung Lee, Park In-Hwan, Jung Jae-Young.
Horror, South Korea, 112 minutes.
Reviewed as part of the Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow, March 2020.
It is hard to remember, but there was a time when zombie movies were a rare occurrence. The fact is that the event of another South Korean zombie movie is something that can now be taken for granted, even if it is a madcap, heartfelt comedy. Luckily ZOMBIE FOR SALE continues that country's hot streak of zombie mayhem that the breakneck thrills of TRAIN TO BUSAN and the period drama of KINGDOM have recently provided, proving that diversity is still spreading through the undead genre.
Using an unethical pharmaceutical company as the catalyst for this particular zombie outbreak, the film begins with the unwitting escape of a zombie who finds himself wandering the countryside. Soon after through a chain of events which nicely display the uselessness of a lone zombie when searching for its preferred diet of flesh and brains he soon finds himself holed up in a remote petrol station and at the mercy of the Park family. Consisting of the elderly Man-deok, his son Jeon-geol with his heavily pregnant wife Nam-joo and his daughter Hae-geol, they find themselves at the centre of a harebrained scheme to make quick cash when younger brother Min-geol returns from the city and sees an opportunity to make some cash from their newly acquired zombie.
It is a packed and slightly convoluted plot that takes up most of the running time in the early stages of the film. Right away it has to establish a sizable cast not to mention the different nature of the zombie who soon comes to be known as "Zzongbie" by a slightly lovestruck Hae-geol due to Zzongbie'sZzongbie's interest in cabbage rather than brains. Then there is the fact that his bite actually has rejuvenating properties much to the delight of Man-deok and his posse who are keen to revive their fading libidos.
Eventually, the various sub-plots of the film begin to calm down and meld together. As busy as the film is in its first half it more than proves its worth as a horror-comedy. Witty, surreal and often goofy it is often laugh out loud funny with one particular use of foul-mouthed subtitles as a particularly inventive visual highlight.
That it manages to maintain its light-hearted humorous approach and fun tone is reason enough to give it a chance. However, it is in the second half of the film that it shifts into gear with a fast-paced riff on a more familiar zombie outbreak that puts us on familiar ground. The seemingly inconsequential scenes that have come before pay off excitingly and sentimentally. Of course, comparisons will be made to SHAUN OF THE DEAD with its mix of genres, but it never goes for the throat in the way that Edgar Wright's film did. Tribute is also paid to TRAIN TO BUSAN by using it as a visual aid and teaching tool for the characters as to how zombies are supposed to work.
Yet another debut feature making its bow at this year's Arrow FrightFest Glasgow. If anything the festival was a resounding success in showing us that the future of the genre is in safe hands. Director Lee Min-jae shows that he has skills in providing fun and excitement and putting a fresh spin on zombie mythology. Like this year's breakout hit PARASITE, it has much to say about the family unit sticking together in a unique situation but goes way beyond it in terms of mining for laughs. Even for a zombie comedy, it is unique making us wonder what Lee min-jae will come up with next.