Director: Lee Min-Jae
Screenplay: Lee Min-jae, Jung Seo-in
Starring: Se-ah Jang, Jae-yeong Jeong, Ga-ram Jung
Country: South Korea
Running Time: 111 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
The elevator pitch for this South Korean zombie comedy could easily be “Edward Scissorhands but he’s a zombie” although that would be oversimplifying what is an incredibly charming albeit sightly rough-at-the-edges film.
The zombie in question here is a young man, played by Ga-ram Jung who, at the start of the film, pops his way out of an abandoned medical waste canister – so far so Return of the Living Dead. Staggering through the beautifully shot South Korean countryside, casually biting off a lump of an elderly man’s head in the process, our protagonist pursues a young girl only to be hit by a truck driven by her older brother.
If you think that sounds particularly farcical then you can rest assured that yes – yes it is. Zombie For Sale is a blend of family comedy, knowing genre winks (here we have a reference to Train To Busan – here is a riff on Shaun of the Dead) and some general silliness. The Zombie, named by the family Jong-Bi (geddit) is quickly drawn into their schemes – you see, this family has a history of scams and the old chap Jong-Bi bit happens to be their patriarch, who soon finds himself with a renewed youthful vigour. The family exploit Jong-Bi’s rejuvenation abilities on the town’s population as their daughter becomes infatuated with this hunky looking undead. Of course things end up spinning way out of control as the story careens towards an ending that it only semi manages to land.
Foreign language comedies aren’t always an easy sell with some gags losing something through the language barrier, but Zombie For Sale manages to avoid that and deliver a film that that is genuinely funny. A lot of that is likely to be in the stellar job that Arrow have done with the subtitles, but it also lies in the films riffs on popular culture, as well as copious amounts of slapstick and physical humour. The earlier mention of Shaun of the Dead was no accident; director Lee Min-Jae peppers the film with many references to Edgar Wright’s work, from stylised camera angles and CG enhanced moments, but it does occasionally come far too close to being a direct lift rather than a homage.
Also unlike Wright’s seminal Zom-Com, Zombie For Sale also plays it light with the horror, leaving it a good hour before we start to see any claret and holding back when the full on zombie action actually hits. There’s also a bizarre bit of censorship at play involving a severed arm where the arms hand is blurred out in the frame; it’s not entirely clear why but it’s possible that the hand is giving the middle finger – either way it dulls the punchline of the gag it’s attached to which is a shame.
On the whole, however, Zombie For Sale is a fun take on horror comedy that has enough broad humour to break through language barriers and deliver a comedy that may not be quite as polished as the films it attempts to riff off, but is a well written and entertaining evening in nonetheless, and would make for an interesting double bill with fellow Eastern Zom-Com, Once Cut of the Dead.
- Newly-translated English subtitles
- 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
As to be expected, Arrow have dolloped a decent amount of bonus features onto this release. While the Western commentary track and essay provide different cultural takes, the Q&A and original Korean making of featurettes are a fascinating look at the making of this film.