| Directed by Herman Yau, 1996, 90 min. Starring Anthony Wong, Meng Lo, Miu-Ying Chan.
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If you thought you knew nasty, it's about time you think again. I present to you: Ebola Syndrome, a movie that's at least twice as intriguing as its title. So even if you were not quite intrigued already, don't just give up on Ebola Syndrome already. Reuniting director Herman Yau and actor Anthony Wong, who previously brought you infamous Hong Kong slasher slash shocker The Untold Story, Ebola Syndrome continues in a strikingly similar fashion. Same director, same lead actor, and even a concept that bears so many similarities with the aforementioned title you might mistake this one for The Untold Story #2: Anthony Wong Does Africa. How can this go wrong? Or rather, can this go wrong? The answer is, simply, no.
Herman Yau is easily one of the most prolific directors in Hong Kong. His output over the years is as varied as it gets, ranging from ultra-sleazy and ultra-violent type movies (The Untold Story) to, believe it or not, ultra-cheesy comedies (Chez 'N Ham).Whatever he does though, he proves to be good at it, very good even. This particular attempt at exploitational sleaze is not just another blood and guts and boobs flick. Ebola Syndrome breathes exploitation. If you'd take out all the gratuitous sex, violence, and gore, you'd most likely end up with nothing. And as Ebola Syndrome is, after all, clearly an exploitation flick, this can only be considered a good thing.
The movie starts out in Hong Kong, 1986, where Kai, full-time restaurant employee and full-time sleazebag, is shagging the boss's wife. Now, screwing bosses' wives probably never brought anyone anything good, and nor does it in this case. Upon being caught in the exploitative sexual act by the boss in question, Kai takes a beating as well as other degrading and painful acts. However, things quickly turn the other way around as Kai goes hysterically homicidal, leaving only the daughter alive. Now, of course, you can't get away with a crime such as this - not even in an exploitation flick - and thus, Kai sees no other option than getting the hell out of Hong-Kong. And where's the most obvious place to go, then? Of course - South Africa!
Ten years later, Kai still resides in South Africa, and works, yet again, in a restaurant. Although he hasn't gone on any kind of killing spree (yet), he's still the pervert he ever was - spying on the boss and his wife having sex while getting it on with a steak (a steak!) being a prime example of this. In search of cheap meat for the restaurant's mouth-watering hamburgers, Kai and his boss go out into the jungle (hey, that's where I would go too!) and end up in a native village - only to find out a whole lot of the natives are suffering from Ebola. They get out as fast as they can (although, of course, only after having bought pig meat), but, on the way back, happen upon a woman who appears to be having a seizure. Kai hurries over to help the woman, but just can't help but notice her rather eye-catching bosom, and squeezes them knockers. Yes, squeezes them - this is, after all, Ebola Syndrome. Next thing you know, Kai is all over the - unconscious - woman, doing his thing. However, as he reaches his climax, the woman spurts blood, starts foaming at the mouth and dies - ouch!
Now infected with Ebola (you did see that coming, right? ;-)), Kai gets a fever and after a visit to the doctor, who immediately recognizes the symptoms, it seems to be only a matter of time before Kai will die of Ebola. Now of course, the fun hasn't even started yet, and so, in yet another incredible plot twist, it turns out that Kai is one of those few people who are immune to Ebola: Kai is now merely a carrier, and is not affected by the relentless disease. In a matter of minutes, his fever has cleared up entirely. From here on, the movie really takes off - but that's something I recommend you see for yourself.
While Ebola Syndrome has all the ingredients to be downright offensive, it's actually infinitely amusing. Cursing, blood, severed limbs, cursing, sex, torture, cursing, rape, cursing, cursing, and then some - yet all presented in an almost tongue-in-cheek way, making it incredibly hard not to laugh. It all keeps going in a rollercoaster kind of way - you'll take feeling sick to your stomach for granted just to experience the downright dirty fun.
Somehow, sometimes, there's even an awkward sense of quality to this production. For instance, Anthony Wong gives an absolutely amazing performance. If I wouldn't have known better, I'd have thought this Wong guy would be exactly the pervert he's playing. Of course, I do know better, but that doesn't make Wong's performance any less credible. At other times though, it's obvious that Ebola Syndrome doesn‘t have much to offer, other than cheap, dirty fun. For instance, Kai is pretty much the only remotely interesting character in this movie. We get treated to a number of subplots and a boatload of potentially interesting characters, but none of these ever really develop; the script could have used just a tad more work. The actors do all their best though, even with what little motivation their characters have.
The thing that's easily the most offensive about Ebola Syndrome is the 'animal slaughter'. Although it's quite tame in comparison to some of the more notorious movies that featured footage of animals actually being beaten, slaughtered, mistreated and what-not (80s Italian cannibal movies probably being the best example of this), it still packs a punch to people who care for animals and those who aren't expecting vicious stuff like this. For instance, Kai prepares a meal that apparently has frog intestines in it - and therefore the gutting of a couple of frogs is graphically shown. Later on, three chickens are beheaded - one of them in a seriously (animal-) unfriendly way. However, even if a bit unnecessary and uncalled for, it doesn't make Ebola Syndrome any less enjoyable.
Ebola Syndrome is an essential movie for everyone who has even the least interest in gore movies. While less shocking than the preceding Wong-Yau collaboration The Untold Story, it's a lot less vile and much easier to stomach. As such, it's also a good starting point for those who'd like to get familiar with the sleazier side of cinema. Crazy, gross, nasty, and above all: infinitely enjoyable. A masterpiece of its genre.
Snowblood Apple Rating for this
Ebola: It kills!
Wong & Yau: Too cool for school
Déjá Vu!: Probably, if you've seen The Untold Story ;-)
Films in a similar style: The Untold Story, Human Pork Chop, Dr. Lamb
*** Recommended! ***
Ebola Syndrome Wallpaper
please note: the actual paper does not have the Snowblood Apple logo on it.
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Sven, 2005
Snowblood Apple Filmographies
- official site of director Herman Yau
http://monsterhunter.coldfusionvideo.com/EbolaSyndrome.html - MonsterHunter liked it too
http://www.kfccinema.com/reviews/horror/ebolasyndrome/ebolasyndrome.html - as did KFCC
http://www.chokingonpopcorn.com/popcorn/index.php?p=655 - Choking on Popcorn hated the film though
http://www.sancho-asia.com/article.php3?id_article=863 - review at Sancho Does Asia [French language]
http://www.sancho-asia.com/article.php3?id_article=883 - Sancho interviews Herman Yau [French language]