I'm not a big zombie guy. Of all the monster genres, I've always found this one, for all its chaos and gore, to be the most jejune. Plus it's been done to death; zombie is the new vampire, with shows like The Walking Dead flogging it to its last drop of congealed blood. The only way to make zombies palatable to me is to present them in a humorous context; Return of the Living Dead, Dead Alive, Shaun of the Dead, that sort of thing. And to this end I give you Sars Wars (2004). Here is a Thai zombie comedy so deliriously goofy and ridiculously gruesome, it gave me a new appreciation for zombie movies.
First off, the title: As some of you may remember, about a decade ago, there was an outbreak of a virus called SARS in East Asia. (I went to Japan in 2003 and I recall it was a big deal; lots of warning signs at the airport.) Anyhow, filmmaker Taweewat Wantha got the idea to make a film about a mutated version of SARS that … wait for it … turns people into zombies! Then he manga-ized things, adding ninja-like superheroes and animated sequences to heighten the crazy action factor. Not to be stopped, he went on to sex things up with a slinky, fishnet-clad lady scientist and a hot, kick-ass high school girl. The latter character is kidnapped by a band of inept thugs holed up in an apartment building that just happens to be ground zero for the new super SARS outbreak. Soon enough everything erupts into a goretastic zombie-palooza.
In a nutshell: You've gotta see this movie. The playfulness and overall sense of fun I've found in Thai culture makes for an immensely enjoyable film. I burst out laughing a number of times, and any film that can do that is an instant classic in my book. (Speaking of "my book," I regret not getting this flick into Asia Shock -- oh well). The characters have a tendency to make jokes about the movie on the fly like, "This is the most ridiculous moment yet" "I know, but you've watched it this far!" There are also nice twists, like a zombie cockroach, a zombie baby and a snake that eats a zombie cat and becomes a giant zombie cat-snake. And let's not forget the ugliest transsexual in the world … and his/her sex scene!
Upping the ante on the horror front is a touch of the ferocious, folkloric Thai ghost. If you know anything about traditional ghosts in Thailand, you'll be familiar with a strain that doesn't just haunt you -- they'll eat your fucking liver! At least one female zombie in this film is of this sort -- a fanged, feral thing far more local than anything out of Hollywood.
So if it's a mind-bending melange of the goofy, gory, sexy and sentimental you're after, you can't ask for more than Sars Wars (aka Sars Wars: Bangkok Zombie Crisis). That is all.
Far East Film Festival - The Day Before
I'm now in Udine, Italy for a film festival, one of several happening simultaneously. Most eyes will be on the events of Tribeca. But I am in Udine for one o...