The latest zombie movie offering from South Korea focuses on family squabbles and humor, aiming more for charm than chills.
Directed by Lee MinJae
Except for perhaps its clever ending, South Korean zombie comedy The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale doesn’t bring much new to the table for this overplayed subgenre. The humor here is also a bit broad, but there is definitely a built-in audience for this kind of film, and those fans should find plenty to enjoy here.
A pharmaceutical company has been experimenting on university students, one of whom (Jung GaRam) has broken free from the facility in a zombie-like state. He winds up an uninvited guest of the family of ManDeok (Park InHwan), an elderly man who dreams of vacationing in Hawaii. He is the patriarch of a gas station family, and his son JoonGul (Jeong JaeYoung) and JoonGul’s pregnant wife NamJoo (Uhm JiWon) make ends meet by running scams on unsuspecting motorists to keep the business open. ManDeok’s daughter HaeGul (Lee SooKyung) broods a lot, and brother MinGul (Kim NamGil) returns to the countryside home after getting unceremoniously fired from his job in Seoul.
When the somewhat good-looking zombie, dubbed JjongBi by the smitten HaeGul, bites ManDeok but the older man finds a newfound virility rather than becoming a zombie himself, the family finds themselves sudden entrepreneurs as they offer zombie bites to other older men in their village. Naturally this plan can’t help but backfire, and when it does, the virus spreads quickly, and the family finds itself defending against zombies, suspicious police officers, and other perils.
Don’t expect much in the way of horror with The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale. Jung’s makeup is minimal, presumably to keep the star looking as handsome as possible though he is portraying a member of the living dead, and most of the zombie makeup in the first and second acts are not much more than contact lenses and a bit of facial touch-ups. Some third-act zombies get a bit more attention in that department. The bites and attacks are played for laughs, with little on display in the grisliness department. As a matter of fact, in the version I watched, a severed hand was blurred out.
The emphasis of the film is on comedy, which, naturally, is subjective. Quite honestly, the broad and sentimental styles of humor on display here are not my bag, but as I stated earlier, many viewers love such styles and will find the whimsical gags and family infighting the movie offers to be quite comical.
Director Lee MinJae helms his feature film debut admirably. He shows a fine hand for family relationships, comical action including a set piece of a vehicle moving recklessly through crowded village streets, and suspense such as a major zombie swarm. The cast is solid and obviously having fun, leaning slightly on the side of hamminess and corniness that often comes with mainstream Korean comedies.
Zombie comedy completists and ardent fans of South Korean cinema will likely have the most fun with The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale. The film is still worth a watch for the curious who might not fall into either of those categories.
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale screened at the London Korean Film Festival, which took place from November 1st-14th in London, United Kingdom. The festival is currently on its annual tour from November 18th-24th. For more information, visit http://koreanfilm.co.uk/.