The zombie movie is a genre that never quite dies. Like any infectious disease, it seems to fall dormant for a while before crashing once more into the public consciousness like a wave. Our most recent zombie plague has seen a steady downward trend since The Walking Dead‘s popularity sank. Superheroes have replaced zombies, and since we haven’t seen a zombie superhero movie (yet!) the brain-munchers have taken pop culture’s back seat. What happens then, like with westerns and noir, is that the indie scene moves in to pick up the pieces and prove that there’s life yet in the decaying genre.
Zombie For Sale continues a fresh, if smaller, wave that perhaps started with Anna and the Apocalypse or The Dead Don’t Die of lower budget films which drag the mangled meat of the common zombie in new directions. Whether that’s in the direction of a Christmas musical, a prestige comedy, or even a racial commentary, zombie films of the past couple years have given plenty of reason to pause and take notice. Zombie For Sale is no different. This quirky Korean comedy sees the Park family, an impoverished group of hustlers and backstabbers running an old gas station, confront an escaped test subject for a major pharmaceutical company. This escapee looks vacant, pallid, and can’t speak. Worst of all, though, is that he bites—Well, after he’s hit in the head with a plunger a few times.
Zombie For Sale
Director: Lee Min-jae
Release: July 6 (VOD, DVD)
There are a couple of innovative twists at play in this bit of good-natured gore. For one, our central zombie has no interest in biting people. He’s more enamored with eating cabbage than brains. On top of that, his bites don’t turn victims into zombies—at first. As the elder Park learns, the bite re-institutes a youthful vigor and stamina. It’s not exactly a fountain of youth, since the bite only restores him to middle age. It is enough, however, to pique the neighboring seniors’ interest in getting a bit of that miracle bite for themselves. After word works its way around, the Parks find themselves with a fresh and lucrative scheme. They cut a sort of extra-large gloryhole into the side of the barn where they keep the zombie. Geriatrics stick their arms in, and the zombie bites down once enough hot sauce has been administered to serve his undead pallet. We get shots of pained but enthralled “O” faces from the old men, and the next day they’re running around like they’re fifty again—until the incubation period ends. Then, the Parks have to face off against a small-scale apocalypse of their own making.
As a whole, Zombie For Sale hits a lot of the right notes, if it’s all a bit kitschy. There’s no limit to its slapstick antics. You could take a drink every time someone gets bonked on the head and zombify yourself before the credits roll. Folks (and a dog) chase each other Scooby-Doo style to over-the-top haunted house music. An impromptu undead dance party kicks off when the lights at the Parks’ gas station begin to malfunction. There’s even a romantic subplot, because the zombie is a hotty. You’ll have to stifle a few of your own zombie-like groans.
That said, it’s clever and endearing enough to get by. The Parks are a lovable unit you want to see succeed against apocalyptic odds. Lee Min-jae’s shooting is solid with artful tracking shots and lush colors reminiscent of Chan-wook Park and Jee-woon Kim. It also helps that the budget’s not too thin for a few explosions and some wanton property damage when the script calls for it.
With an ending as inventive as its setup, Zombie For Sale is a light and fun comedy of errors, garnering equal parts eye rolls and laughs. For some, that will only enhance the charm. For others, there’s enough genuine good here to make it worth your time. It’s not quite as charming and impressive as One Cut of the Dead, but it nails the same general tone and feeling. If you’re looking for something swirling in that vein, then bite in. You’ll probably like what you taste.