Wednesday, June 20, 2012

REVIEW: Biozombie

Director: Wilson Yip
Year 1998

Biozombie is a neon-soaked black comedy that features a zombie apocalypse inside a shopping mall. Played out like a comedic homage to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, the film features a group of shoppers who must band together and fight off a zombie horde, or become one of the undead masses. Shot in a hyper-kinetic style that often resembles a video game on crack, Biozombie is an outstanding oddity of the genre and one hell of a fun zombie flick.

The film follows two friends, Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee, as they run an errand for their boss. As they make their way back to their VCD store in the mall, they have an unexpected run-in with a man who is hopped up on a tainted soft drink that turns its unfortunate drinkers into flesh-eating zombies. After accidentally running over the man with their car, the two bring the body back to the mall to explain what happened to their boss, only to inadvertently start a zombie apocalypse within the mall that quickly begins turning the shopping center into a feasting ground for the undead. Armed with one gun, a power drill, and a knife, the two band together with a handful of survivors as they try desperately to escape this waking nightmare. With a huge tongue and cheek attitude which mixes video game concepts with the real world situations, Biozombie is an intense and bloody experience that moves a mile a minute.

Sam Lee plays Crazy Bee, a tough-talking slacker who is more coward than courageous, while Jordan Chan plays the role of Woody Invincible, the braver of the two friends. Both characters are metaphorical zombies in real life, with their lives going nowhere and their careers at a VCD store in the mall locked in a stagnant holding pattern. They lie, cheat, and steal their way through each day, and never really accomplish much in the process. It’s when the zombie uprising occurs that they actually start doing something with their lives and begin being the kind of persons that they always dreamt of being. While Crazy Bee begins to find his courage and skill through his many hours of blasting zombies in the video game world, Woody Invincible begins to realize that he is more than just a slacker as he leads the group through one perilous situation to the next, bravely taking on the zombie horde every step of the way. Both Sam Lee and Jordan Chan do a great job with the material that they are given and the comedic timing between each of the actors is fabulous to behold. It’s great to see this lackadaisical pair rise to the occasion and turn into some pretty efficient zombie killers, as they play the role of the underdogs to perfection.

The rest of the cast does an equally commendable job with a few giving some very memorable turns in their expressive performances. Angela Tong Ying-Ying and Suk Yin Lai, take on the roles of Woody and Bee’s female counterparts, Rolls and Jelly, while Yiu-Cheung Lai plays the role of the stereotypical asshole as he uses the female cast of actresses as human shields against the oncoming zombie hordes. These three are all really great in their respective roles, but Emotion Cheung’s Loi character blows them all out of the water with its unorthodox approach and unexpected obscurity. The character of Loi is a weird one and I mean that in every sense of the word. With his coke bottle glasses and his turtle like features, the kid is a strange looking dude, and he’s hung up on the beautiful Rolls, opting to admire her from afar. After he is bitten by a zombie early on in the film, he begins to change physically but not emotionally, as he still holds a flame for the young Rolls. This makes for quite an interesting series of events as we see the zombified Loi defending her against other zombies and even offering her a delicious treat in the form of a sushi finger sandwich. Yummy in the tummy! Cheung does a great job with the odd character of Loi and he definitely leaves a lasting impression on you, long after the film has faded from memory.

What is most impressive about Biozombie is that it creates an interesting balance between comedic moments and dramatic situations, making for an unusual but highly satisfying mixture that comes off as being fresh and new while still staying close to the zombie origins that it is inspired from. You could say that the closest film to replicate this kind of blend of horror and comedy would be the 2004 zomedy-hit Shaun of the Dead. Like Edgar Wright’s masterpiece, Biozombie mixes its horror elements with its comedy ones seamlessly, where as you’ll never really notice the switch. This balancing act fades into the background as we get use to the hyper-intense style of the cinematic world that director Wilson Yip has created for us, and eventually we just take it for what it is. It’s a unique accomplishment for a film to present us with such a hyper-realized world and in the end make it feel normal and ordinary by the time the credits begin to roll.

With the film trying to replicate the same kind of feel as George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, but with a comedic twist, the movie does a great job in reinforcing that narrative’s focus on consumerism and the drones that it turns us into. Whether this was intentional or it’s just the after-affects of Romero’s comparisons that are helping with the metaphor to come into light, the setting of the shopping mall and the hum drum lifestyle that the main characters lead make for some striking similarities that hit home the concept of the consumerist nightmare. If anything, Biozombie is almost the absolute opposite of Romero’s masterpiece. In his film it takes the zombie apocalypse to make people realize the hypnotic pull these consumerist utopias have on us, producing the zombie-like effect that draws us there again and again, yet with no real substance, while Biozombie starts out with the lead cast living their lives like zombies with no direction, that is until the zombie apocalypse happens and they begin to fully realize their own individual potentials. Either way, both films use the metaphor of a shopping center as the central storytelling method of consumerism and the effects they have on society. Biozombie may not use it as a soap box, but the memories that this movie is paying homage to seem to seep into the storyline to create its own spin on the subject.

Biozombie is a highly entertaining zombie romp, which takes inspiration from George A. Romero’s master work and turns it on its head, replacing real world characters with hyper-realized individuals to make a zombie story that is anything but routine. The cast of the film is as energetic as they come, staging over-enthusiastic performances that really tickle the funny bone as much as they entertain and thrill. Jordan Chan and Sam Lee do a great job as the slacker duo that overcome adversity and rise to the occasion when the shit really does begin to hit the fan. Emotion Cheung especially turns out an exceptionally creepy performance as the zombie with a crush, proving that Emotion can still show emotion even after death.

Aside from the remarkable cast and their highly energized performances, the film does an amazing job in blending together the comedy infused elements with the horror inflicted constructs to form a kind of movie world that truly feels remarkably realized and authentic. The cinematic world that Wilson Yip has set up may be stylized to the max, but the combination that he is able to balance out between these very opposite thematic tones of film is perfectly matched and exquisitely formed. Biozombie is set in a world where videogames blur into reality and the visual palette of the imagery is set on neon bursts. Buckle up for this smorgasbord of crazy, because nothing will feel the same after enduring this outrageous zombie apocalypse. Biozombie is…..  

Yippie! I love zombie apocalypses!

Lover's Lane just wasn't the same without girls.

Check out these gangstas. Hard as hell!

It's the "I just crapped my pants" face.

Fuck you buddy.

That's some trippy shit right there.

Damn you look like a turtle dude.

Looks like you've got something on your.... never mind.

Another "I crapped my pants" face. This movie is full of them.

Hi, everyone enjoying the movie?

Please Woody don't hurt 'em.

That's how you do it!

Even the camera man is a zombie.... or drunk!

Who doesn't idolize Japanese underwear models?

This would be an awesome Coke commercial.

Use up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start!

Looks like Velma dropped her glasses again. Stupid kids.

Don't drink that you stupid shit!

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