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Review © Larry D Burns, 2003.

Directed by Wilson Yip, 1998, 94 min. starring Jordan Chan, Sam Lee, Angela Tong Ying-Ying, Yiu-Cheung Lai, and Emotion Cheung.

Despite my aversion towards zombie flicks (Asian zombie flicks in particular - brought about no doubt by the viewing of Junk), I approached Bio Zombie (aka Sang dut sau shut) with as much of an open mind as possible. After all, when your lead characters are named Woody Invincible, Crazy Bee, Rolls, and Jelly, you gotta know you’re in store for something else.

Although you really don't get anything original in particular, what's surprising about Bio Zombie is that you may just find yourself enjoying it. With a cast of well-defined characters, you don't get that annoyingly unrealistic shifting in characterization that plagues several horror movies. What you see these characters are in the first 15 minutes is what they'll be like all throughout. And each character really does contribute a lot to the paper-thin plot line. For what it lacks in meat, it more than makes up for with performance - not that it'll win any acting awards. Meryl Streep ain't gonna be knockin' down these actors doors asking for techniques. It's just that it's almost as if these actors know that they're in a ridiculous movie, therefore they should give equally ridiculous performances. And it's this type of fearlessness that make it, well, almost endearing.

Synopsis

"If there are zombies, I'll eat them up!!"

Although nothing compelling happens in this movie in terms of plotlines, I suppose a fair outline is in order. Woody Invincible (Jordan Chan) and Crazy Bee (Sam Lee III) run a pirated VCD shop at a mall in Hong Kong. They’re into all sorts of illegal activity - petty theft, carjacking, the works. They also run errands for Brother Kui (Yiu-Cheung Lai), another small-time thug who buys and sells stolen cell phones. One night, they are asked to pick up a car and driven to the mall. The two gladly oblige – anything for a free ride.

Meanwhile, at an abandoned warehouse, a group of scientists are testing the latest biological weapon of mass destruction - a soft drink (bizarrely, the UK's friend-to-ill-children, bright orange, sugar-packed Lucozade) mixed with a chemical that instantly turns its drinker into a brainless zombie. The scientists pat themselves on the back as their subject shows exemplary strength and can wreak absolute terror. Now they have the ultimate weapon...

Well, being that zombies have a mind of their own (that's probably an oxymoron), their test subject escapes, causing a commotion among the scientists. One of them starts to run with the toxic drink, running all the way to the highway, where – you guessed it – Woody and Bee accidentally run him over while driving Brother Kui's car. The two stop, step out of the car, and attempt to resuscitate the victim. "Maybe he needs a drink…" How convenient, he's brought his own soda! They proceed to force the liquid into the victim’s mouth. When he still doesn't come to, they decide he's dead, and stuff him in the trunk.

Arriving back at the mall, they decide to check on the body - he's still out cold. They do notice, however, that the man has a cellphone. Being the crooks that they are, they swipe the phone, and decide to sell it to Brother Kui, who, being a crook as well, gives them a really stinky price for it. Still, they managed to get some cash out of it. While all this is going on, the body in the trunk begins to show signs of life. Well, if you consider zombie life to actually be some kind of life, that is. He breaks out of the trunk, then proceeds to juice one of the car park security guards.

Around this time – Crazy Bee and Woody Invincible hook up with two chicks they've been cruising all night long. Rolls and Jelly run a beauty parlor in the same mall. They meet up at a sushi restaurant and the alpha males decide to splurge with their newfound cellphone sale. Looking on jealously is nerdy, bespectacled sushi chef Sushi Boy who has a major crush on Rolls. The two, knowing this, continue to taunt Sushi Boy all night.

Soon enough, the mall nears closing time, and the shops begin to close up - a perfect opportunity for a zombie to roam around a mall undetected, and of course, to add more to the zombie population. Pretty soon, several of the night staff have been zombiefied, including poor old Sushi Boy.

Seeing that the major cast all have shops at the mall, they are the last to leave. And sure enough, they discover zombies roaming the corridors, and it all becomes a battle of the zany living against the even zanier dead.

What happens in the second part of this film is pretty much what you'd expect from a zombie movie. But what sets it apart from the genre is that it's essentially a comedy with a few gross-out bits thrown in. I suppose the gross-out bits can be seen as intentionally funny, considering the cheapness of the make-up and sound effects. I swear, at one point my fillings were acting up because I believe they used two pieces of Styrofoam rubbed together to make a squishy sound.

The make-up was hilariously inconsistent – looking pretty much like oatmeal piled on faces with glops of strawberry jam for effect. And again with powdered everything! (Where do these people get the idea that when you die, you get powdery?) The only make-up consistent throughout the movie belongs to Rolls: amidst all the chaos, her frosted lipstick stays intact. Very J-Lo in The Cell.

Still, for all its shortcomings, it's the performances that have to be applauded. These actors attack their roles with such absolute gusto it's commendable. I suppose for every Styrofoam weapon brandished or cardboard computer monitor thrown, there is a zany vibe that runs throughout that makes up for that. And, come on, it's really not meant to be taken seriously. You just have to smile at the low-budget attempts at terror and marvel at its one-liners and out-of-place humor.

If there's one question that’ll stay with me after seeing this movie, it's this: Do zombies need glasses to see better? ;-)


Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 8/10
Chills: 1/10
Violence: 4/10
Sex: Woody Invincible?/10
Laughs: 9/10
Toxic Lucozade?: Yum! Must be all that tasty Sunset Yellow (E171) that makes those zombies oh-so-unkillable
Make-up: oatmeal and strawberry jam? Not so much special FX as breakfast
Human Sushi: you betcha! Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'finger food' ;-D
Woody Invincible: also known in some versions as, believe it or not, Mo Dik. Mmmmm, subtle! ;-)
Films in a Similar Style: Junk (doesn't have the humour, but does have the cheese'n'sleaze), Wild Zero (great film, badly made-up zombies), Bio-Cops

***Recommended - lacking in horror but in no way lacking in laughs***

Discuss this movie here at the Snowblood Apple Forums!

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Wilson Yip
Jordan Chan
Sam Lee
Angela Tong Ying-Ying

Links

http://www.teleport-city.com/movies/reviews/horror/biozombie.html - fab review from the folks at Teleport City, hilariously written and very nicely observed
http://www.hkfilm.net/biozomb.htm - don't read Chinese and wondering what the video-game profiles in the film are in translation? Read this review and wonder no longer
http://www.sexgoremutants.f9.co.uk/bio.html - Sex Gore Mutants, bang on the money as usual
http://www.subwaycinema.com/frames/archives/gore2002/bio.htm - another beautifully-written review
http://terebi.weblogs.com/hkmovie-reviews/biozombie - more of the same
http://www.kfccinema.com/reviews/horror/biozombie/biozombie.html - a reasonable (although short) review, but a whole bunch of great pictures
http://www.destroy-all-monsters.com/biozombie.shtml - Destroy All Monsters (what a great name for a site!) have their go at pinning down that elusive BZ-factor
http://www.cityonfire.com/hkfilms/ab/biozombie.html - three really good reviews (despite the thing about Angela Tong's shorts)
http://www.cinemasie.com/fiche/oeuvre/biozombie/noscritiques.html?langtext=fr - and user reviews at Cinemasie [French only]
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/bz/ - loads of images, and technical specs about the movie and a good review to boot
http://www.sanchodoesasia.com/sdhk/sdhk_bio_zombie.php - Akatomy does a brilliant job with his review, and there's some screencaps too [French only]


this review (c) Larry D Burns, 2003. all other text and webdesign (c) 2002, 2003 M. Apple. All characters, situations and images remain the property of their respective owners. The text and webdesign of this site may not be copied, reproduced, mirrored, printed commercially or ripped off in any other way. Do not hotlink directly to images hosted on this site.