Bio Zombie (1998) Movie Review

More “Return of the Living Dead” than “Night of the Living Dead”, the Hong Kong salute to Zombies Attack film “Bio Zombie” is funnier and more effective than you would think at first glance. Only true fans of the genre will be able to appreciate the balance director Wilson Yip (“Skyline Cruisers”) and the writers have managed to straddle, shifting from silly slapstick to gross out humor to moments of poignancy. True, the whole poignant thing is reserved for the film’s last 10 minutes or so, but it is still more than one expects from films in this genre.

Jordan Chan (the “Young and Dangerous” series) and Sam Lee (“2002”) headlines as Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee, respectively, two carefree chaps working at a VCD shop in a Hong Kong mall. Completely unconcern with pleasing customers or monitoring the store itself, the two buddies are sent by their boss to go get his car. On the drive back to the mall, the duo runs over a man with a briefcase. Inside the briefcase is a biological weapon in the form of a bottle of soda drink (!), which the man had purchased from some shady Middle Eastern types a few moments earlier.

Since they don’t want to get nailed for running someone over, Woody and Bee stash the guy in the trunk of their boss’s car and drives back to the mall (!). But there’s a problem: believing that the injured guy was asking for his soda drink, the boys forced the biochemical weapon down his mouth! When they have returned to the mall, the boys discover that the guy has turned into a zombie and escaped. Soon, the whole mall is infested with zombies, and a zombie guard has closed the only way out!

If it sounds like “Bio Zombie” is a Benny Hill skit stretched out into a movie, the truth isn’t far off. When “Bio Zombie” isn’t playing everything for laughs, its, well, playing everything for laughs. When the zombies finally do attack in mass numbers, things take a turn for the disgusting. The zombies aren’t just pale and lumbering, they have giant sores and blisters, some as big as a fist. Yes, it is as disgusting as it sounds. Anyone who plans to eat something shouldn’t watch the movie first.

Besides our two unwitting heroes, the other mallrats forced to contend with the quickly multiplying number of living dead is a storeowner who constantly belittles his poor wife, and Rolls (Angela Tong), a local cutie and object of hopeless adoration by nerdy sushi chef Loi (Emotion Cheung). Loi happens to also be one of the first people to turn into a zombie, which turns out to be not such a bad deal for the shy fellow. Although he’s now prone to biting chunks out of people’s necks, Loi is still in love with Rolls, and even defends her against other zombies! Of course, being that there are giant pus sacks hanging off Loi’s face, poor Rolls wants nothing to do with him. Can you blame her, really?

Of the two leads, Jordan Chan is clearly the appointed hero, with Sam Lee providing sidekick duty, a role Lee seems to have been pigeonholed in for as long as I’ve seen him in Hong Kong movies. Before the zombies attack, the comedy comes from Woody and Bee’s interaction with the rest of the mallrats, including some thickheaded security guards and two anxious cops. Besides selling bad copies of movies to unsuspecting customers, the dynamic duo aren’t above robbing a poor girl in the bathroom by throwing a bucket over her head and taking her ring. Not exactly hero material, but that’s what makes them so endearing, I guess.

Although “Bio Zombie” plays out as a zombie spoof ala “Return of the Living Dead” for much of its running length, its last 10 minutes is actually very morbid. And like the ending of “Resident Evil”, the ending of “Bio Zombie” is something of a downer, especially when we learn that all the fighting our survivors have been doing might have all been in vain, considering the state of the world outside the mall.

You have to really like Zombie movies in order to fully appreciate just how much better “Bio Zombie” is compared to the rash of Zombie films that have come out lately. It’s funnier than most of the Asian Zombie pictures that went for laughs, including “Wild Zero” and “Junk”. The many violent scenes in “Bio Zombie” are of the over-the-top variety, with the survivors using everything from knives to portable drills to battle their way out of the zombie-infested mall. It’s a good time, with plenty of gore to satisfy gorefiends.

On the flip side, because “Bio Zombie” goes mostly for laughs, it’s not very scary. Yes, I know the film wasn’t meant to be scary. The thing is, I’m unsure how the notion of dead people coming back from the dead to eat the flesh of the living has turned into comedy fodder as a matter of course. Where are the millennium equivalent of “Dawn of the Dead”, “Day of the Dead”, and other Romero works? Where are the Zombie films that give me goosebumps? Makes me look over my shoulders or quiver in fear?

I’m still waiting…

Wilson Yip (director) / Wilson Yip, Matt Chow, Siu Man Sing (screenplay)
CAST: Jordan Chan …. Woody Invincible
Sam Lee …. Crazy Bee
Angela Tong Ying-Ying …. Rolls
Emotion Cheung …. Loi

Buy Bio Zombie on DVD