Directed By: Lee Min-jae
Starring: Jeong Jae-yeong, Jung Ga-ram, Kim Nam-gil
Running Time: 112 mins (1hr 52mins)
Release Date: 6th July 2020
One of Korea’s largest Pharmaceutical companies has been conducting illegal human experiments, with the side effects resulting in a deadly virus that can reanimate the dead – most commonly known as Zombies. When one such specimen awakes in the middle of rural Korea, he journeys down into a nearby town insearch of a snack. Following several unfortunate encounters with locals, this zombie ends up in the garage of the Park family. A dysfunctional family of misfits, that run a shabby gas station who get by only from hustling those unfortunate to be driving by. A new family business emerges when the head of the household becomes revitalized and youthful, after being bitten by the zombie. When news of their unexpected fountain of youth reaches the men around the town, the money starts rolling in as bite-marks become the latest medical cure to old age. That is, until the locals begin to start biting back!
Don’t be going into this film expecting much horror, as it is a Zom-Rom com. Otherwise known as a Zombie-Romantic Comedy. A fairly new genre of film, as the only other one I can compare it to is the 2013 American film – ‘Warm Bodies’. This time it is set in the Korean countryside, where a lone Zombie emerges from a barrel, which I believe was dumped by someone from the pharmaceutical company wishing to get rid of the evidence. Our Zombie friend isn’t very courageous, nor does he act like the usual, run of the mill zombie. As not only is he terrified of a certain dog that roams the town, but also seems to prefer eating whole cabbages covered in ketchup – instead of human flesh. So it seems, we have a vegetarian zombie as our star.
This film has numerous comedic moments, from the zombie known as Jjong-bi becoming the Park familys’ new pet. Discovering his unusual food preferences, to gradually being accepted into the family and cared for. Not only that, but we also have a romance blooming between the youngest daughter of the Park family: Hae-gul and her new pet/adopted brother? End of the day, this is a very entertaining film and although it’s more of a family comedy, it does exceptionally well when it comes to representing the zombie film culture. In regards to the special effects, film direction and the high standard of acting proformances.
As I mentioned before, the Park family is a bit dysfunctional. We have the head of the household: Man-deok. The soon to be grandfather, desperate to raise enough cash to fly out to Hawaii with the ashes of his deceased wife. To fulfill what was a lifelong dream holiday for them both. Then we have his son Joon-gul and his wife Nam-joo, who is heavily pregnant with their first born. Cause we all know, it’s far more dramatic when there is a pregnant woman involved in a horror film, just take ‘Train to Busan’ for instance. Now in this film, Nam-joo holds her own! She is not a woman to be messed with and is seen as the iron fist that controls the money of the household. Which reflects the tradition in Korean culture. Then we have the second son Min-gul, who is left with no other choice but to return home after being fired from his last job. And lastly we have the young Hae-geol, a strong female character who holds a lot of remorse from the circumstances of her birth. The only female role model she seems to have is her step sister, from whom she seems to share a lot of her strong characteristics from but ultimately has a kind heart. This family is far from trustworthy and they do all seem to go all in for the get rich quick schemes. In fact they kind of remind me of the struggling Kim Family from the 2019 multi Academy Award Winning film Parasite.
‘Zombie For Sale’ certainly had some interesting characters and gave them enough back story to what was needed for this film. However although we know absolutely nothing about who our zombie was before he became a test subject – we also know next to nothing about the pregnant Nam-joo. I think the film may have had some more substance if the team had included just ten more minutes just to explore her character. As she is by far the strongest character in this film, both mentally and physically! You can see that for yourself when you see her in any scene that has zombies init – or even her idiot brother-in-law.
So we do get some substantial zombie action in this film, mostly towards the end as just as luck would have it – the paying customers turn into the ‘undead’. Just like all get rich quick schemes, this one goes belly up and with deadly consequences. We have our run of the mill, flesh eating zombies that go on a steady enough pace. They are both attracted to light and noise, which is well utilized by the Park family in their attempts to escape. We also have an incubation period for the virus as well as some salvation, as there are those that are immune but with no indication as to why. Ultimately the action is there, both with family dramas and in the struggle to survive. With some interesting PPE gear and an explosive end to a family business, it is ultimately the final scenes of the film that showed the best qualities of this family. I do hope for a sequel, but according to the director there won’t be one anytime soon.
Bonus Features Include:
- Brand new audio commentary with filmmakers and critics Sam Ashurst and Dan Martin
- Q&A with director Lee Min-Jae from a 2019 screening at Asian Pop-Up Cinema in Chicago, moderated by film critic and author Darcy Paquet
- Eat Together, Kill Together: The Family-in-Peril Comedy – brand new video essay by critic and producer Pierce Conran exploring Korea’s unique social satires
- Making-Of Featurette
- Behind-the-Scenes footage
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Mike Lee-Graham
- Exclusive to first pressing is a Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing by Josh Hurtado
This is the first directorial debut for Lee Min-jae, and he certainly did a good job. This is perhaps the first film to come out of South Korea in the Zombie Rom-Com genre and it’s definitely a steady contender. With great performances from the entire cast, it takes inspiration from the likes of ‘Train to Busan’, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Warm Bodies’.
It is a decent film, perhaps it is only one you could stick on now and again over the years. It’s rewatchability factor isn’t very high, but it is a good film to introduce to your friends if they don’t mind subtitles.