Biozombie is a classic zomcom, one of the first to hit the scene in homage to Romero’s Dead series, forgotten now perhaps in the current oversaturation of the zombie genre. However, where today’s zombie cinema tends to focus more on the dramatic and character-driven element, there are those of us who long for the rare, elusive, comedic side of flesh-ripping, corpse-violating fun that only a movie like this can satisfy. Before the quintessential Shaun of the Dead, before the cult favorite Fido, there was … BIOZOMBIE.
Break out your chain wallets, flip phones and Game Boy Colors, because it’s time to hit the mall, Hong Kong nineties style.
Zilch. We get bra-less beauties in tank-tops, but that’s about it.
Some, but it’s more campy than stomach-turning.
None. This one’s all comedy.
Before we get going, let me begin by saying that my particular copy, a DVD from the days of old (1998), gave me some particularly interesting options on the setup screen.
– English Dub
– English with subtitles
– Cantonese with subtitles
– Engrish subtitles
Yup, you read that right – Engrish. Aaaand away we go!
Our story opens with a couple of mallrat ne’re-do-wells by the name of Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee, sauntering through their stomping grounds to the hip-hop sounds of what our more astute listeners out there will recognize as a beat not quite, but not too unlike, Naughty By Nature’s O.P.P. After punking out a few fat chicks and cops, these Hong Kong versions of chavs settle in at their jobs as video porn hucksters for a shift of smoking, harassing nerds, and video game playing.
Continuing on with the odd but enjoyable naming scheme, we stop for a brief interlude with the pretty but forgettable Jelly, and the bra-less, manipulative Rolls, a deliciously whorish fem with a lust for … well, anything worth paying. After cock-teasing the poor, dorky sushi chef, our girls move on to their next prey.
(One thing of note: a bootleg video shout out to Stephen Chow is well received, since the humor in this flick is very similar to Chow’s brand of comedy. Fans of his work will certainly see the resemblance. One could argue that Chow’s subsequent films (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) found comedic influence in this early work of director Wilson Yip, who would eventually leave the horror game to make such greats as IP Man and A Chinese Ghost Story.
Moving on, we get our cookie-cutter set-up for what’s to come: a generic scene with some shady, Chinese businessmen, exchanging briefcases with equally as shady, moustached men of a darker complexion. After taking a moment to riff on America (haha, China’s meeting with the Middle East and can’t nobody stop ‘em! Suck it, America!) we learn that the highly contagious biochemical zombie juice has been stored in a … soft drink container? Okay sure, why not. Long story short, these geniuses, who are clearly not educated in how zombies work, have brought one to the meeting for live demonstration. So, businessmen underestimate zombie, businessman gets bit, businessman then flees into the open public. Pretty standard stuff.
In a shocking turn of events, Woody and Bee accidentally run over Businessman Patient Zero with their car, pull a quick Weekend-at-Bernies to throw the cops, mistakenly feed him more of the tainted drink, and leave with Zero in their trunk. Concerned, our heroes(?) drive the injured man to the hospital/mall, promptly forget about him, and go back to their by nerd beating and game playing. Some hours later, the morons remember that they ran over a guy, and that he’s probably dying in their trunk. When they return to the car, a surprise awaits them.
I’ll give you a hint: it’s not good.
The body is missing, but there is a strange, odoriferous, crystallized stuff lining the trunk…
What follows is your standard teenage mugging/foreplay-like romp through the mall toilets, perpetrated by bucket-slinging Woody and knife-wielding Bee who, after being so very concerned that they’d run over a man, seem to have no problem knifing saucy mall whore Rolls right in her pretty little head. You know, the whole, boy-meets-girl, girl-prices-herself-too-high, boy-attempts-to-murder-girl-and-rob-her. After a sloppy takedown, Rolls, despite not seeing her attackers yet knowing full well what idiots are behind it, decides to get them drunk at Sushi Boy’s place with the intention of getting them to confess, because hell, why not fuck with the geek too. Ah, I just love a woman who multitasks.
After some romantic toilet fucking/puking, we find that a mugging CAN lead to love after all. Sushi Boy, heartbroken, does what all jilted lovers do – he creeps around the bathroom door, listening to his lady love grunt and vomit, before heading into the next door restroom to cry it out. Unfortunately for him, things are about to get worse, as Patient Zero shambles his way through the mall…
I SAID OCCUPIED, ASSHOLE!
Soon after, the gang gets back together and it looks like we’ve got a mystery on our hands. While Woody and Bee hash out the details of a mysterious break-in with a local shop owner, the girls look after Sushi Boy. Of course, we all know he’s not going to recover from his infected bite, and it’s not long before he starts lusting after more than just the ladies’ uh, lady-parts. After chowing down on a redshirt boutique girl, he starts getting all Frankenstein’s Monster over his number one girl, Rolls.
After some shenanigans with the local po-po, Woody and Bee get popped for possession of the demon weed and end up handcuffed in the mall’s security control room. There, they share a little bro moment, as we find out that Woody has forgotten that today is Bee’s birthday. Aw. Hey, if Asian cinema has taught me anything, it’s that there is no love greater than a man’s platonic love for another man.
Meanwhile, Sushi Boy shambles onto the monitors with Rolls in hand and so begins Operation: Lose All of These Expendable Cop Characters. Patient Zero on the other hand, having now found the control room, starts munching down on pork while a frantic Woody and Bee try to free themselves. Using their expert knowledge of video games, they discover what we all know now is the key to stopping the walking dead – aim for the head. As Team Zombie continues to add players to its roster, our remaining survivors band together and eventually it’s up to our slackers-turned-heroes to save everyone’s soft, delicious skin. A confrontation at the sushi joint brings our love triangle full-circle, as Rolls watches Woody and Sushi Boy duke it out for her hand (though in Sushi Boy’s case, that phrase takes on a much more literal meaning). Back at the girls’ boutique, Bee starts macking on the wife of the misogynistic phone-shop salesman, leading to a heated, yet humorous exchange which again, plays like something right out of a Stephen Chow film.
Eventually Woody and Rolls return to the group, but it’s not long before the boutique is compromised. With no other option, the survivors flee together and head for the elevators but oops – it seems that their just one person too heavy for liftoff. Phone Salesman, the token asshole of the group, shoves Jelly out the door into the waiting arms of the hoard. Bye bye, sweet Jelly. If only you’d shown more nip through your shirt, you might have had more screen time.
Like this, see? And uh, so … hm. What were we talking about again?
This is the point in the film where, as the saying goes, shit starts to get real. Everyone grabs a weapon, video game stats splash the screen, and some good ‘ol slapstick zombie-killin’ ensues. In a final moment of redemption, token asshole Mr. Kui (the phone shop salesman) gives his life to save his lady, but is too late. Bee doesn’t make it in time to save her, and with her dies the last possible vagina in the film for him to end up with. With no more reason to live, Bee starts to succumb to a bite he’d taken in the previous fight. Since there’s no love like bro love, a dramatic moment follows, as Woody holds on tightly to his dying friend, offering words of comfort.
It’s a Kodak moment.
And in the next breath, offers to let his infected buddy fuck his girlfriend.
Get it? ‘Cause in China, women are possessions. Haha, suck it, feminists!
After shedding a few man tears, Woody and company are startled by a forgotten rent-a-cop, who bursts in and pulls a Bane on the dying Bee, snapping him in half and making it game over for him. Now fueled by the rage of a lost bromance, Woody unleashes the beast on the hoard blocking their escape through the garage, when who should come to their rescue but the forgotten Sushi Boy, proving the old adage that if you truly love something, set it free from a screaming, flesh-devouring fate. Woody and Rolls, the sole survivors in this tale, make their escape from the mall and into the world beyond, but if you think a happy ending awaits them, think again. Following the formula that no zombie film ever ends well for the characters, Woody returns to the car to find that Rolls is drinking the forgotten, infectious soda from the car’s console. Following suit, he takes the bottle from her and downs the rest.
In a word: fun. Aside from its somber ending, this is a light, silly zombie flick that never takes itself too seriously, despite a few melodramatic turns. The jokes fire off fast too – unlike many horror films, you won’t find yourself bored, waiting for the action to happen. The gore-free scenes are actually more entertaining to watch, thanks in part to a great cast. Jordan Chan (Woody), Sam Lee (Bee), and Angela Tong (Rolls) fit into their roles so well, it’s easy to forget you’re watching actors on screen. This should go without saying, but I recommend only watching this with subtitles, since much of the characters’ charm lies in their delivery. Regardless of whether or not you speak Cantonese, the cadence with which they utter their lines is so very entertaining.
The makeup effects predate CGI, and while I for one can appreciate both traditional and computer-generated blood ‘n guts, the effects in this film unfortunately fall flat. The wounds and blood spatter look okay, but the full-face zombie characters are sadly amateur, especially in close-ups. In certain scenes you can even see where the makeup is coming off around the ears and neck areas, giving them a very rubber-mask look. Luckily, the humor carries the film along, but fair warning: don’t go into this expecting the groundbreaking gore from the Romero film in which this movie draws its inspiration.
On the plus side, some creative camera work makes for some nice visual gags, and gives us a taste of why Yip was able to break out of the B-movie game for feature films. Biozombie is not a perfect movie and feels a bit dated now, but it’s still a fun, campy ride with some very amusing characters. It’s a definitely worth a watch for zombie buffs, especially given that it helped pave the way for subsequent zomcoms. On the other hand, you may never look at sushi the same way again.
UPDATE: It’s been brought to my attention that VHS copies of this movie featured a little-known alternate ending. It’s only a slight variation on the released version, but for posterity’s sake, here’s a link for the curious. Thanks to Chrispanic for the head’s up!
IMDB page for this rottin’ flick
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Categories: asian horror