Studio: Dread Central Presents
Director: Alan Lo
Writer: He Liang Yu, Nick Cheuk, Ng Siu Lun, Pang Chi Hoi, Chan Wai Sing
Producer: Clement Cheng, Angus Chan
Stars: Michael Ning, Louis Cheung, Venus Wong, Cherry Ngan, Alex Man, Carrie Ng, Chu Pak Him, Chu Pak Hong, Yeung Wai Lun, Chris Chan, Rosa Maria Velasco
Two friends live out their superhero fantasy when a zombie outbreak threatens their adoptive family and celebrity idol.
Japan’s genre oddities are continually seeing considerable competition from Asian neighbors for a piece of the manga-infused midnight movie mania market. China’s “Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight” may not rival the heartfelt sentimentality of “Assassination Classroom” (review here) or the outrageous insanity of “Meatball Machine Kodoku” (review here). But its middle ground of bittersweet family melodrama mixed with zany zombie action makes for a film whose fun comes from unusually entertaining eccentricity.
Put your umbrellas up for a heavy downpour of detailed exposition before momentum can reach top speed. “Zombiology” starts by pitting a stadium security guard against a supernaturally powered something or other in a chicken mascot costume. Don’t scratch your scalp yet. The setup switches quickly to an anime introduction for Lone and Yeung, two otherwise average young men who see themselves as invincible superheroes whose fearlessness can save the world from monsters.
In reality, Lone and Yeung live with opera instructor Shan and Shan’s paranormal enthusiast niece Yit. Lone has been with Shan since boyhood, when his father Wing crippled Shan and killed her brother in a car accident scheme that turned tragic. Wing just finished serving a 10-year prison sentence. His sudden release threatens to upend the lives of Lone’s extended family, but probably not nearly as much as an impending zombie outbreak, unexpected encounter with a celebrity martial artist, or onslaught of skin-melting decapitations courtesy of explosive projectile eggs.
Did I mention almost all of the above gets established in only seven minutes? Get it. Got it? Good.
Six writers contributed to the script. That number almost seems low given how many people, places, things, and events pack the movie’s luggage to bursting. Sitting in a feature film director’s chair for the first time, Alan Lo impressively juggles every ball without too many floor-bound bounces. Considering how many separate threads weave into one crazy quilt, Lo’s accomplishment is nothing short of impressive for combining disparate elements into one (mostly) cohesive story.
“Zombiology” contains more intangible content than can be dissected in one straightforward review. Undercurrents of relatable human drama parallel almost every piece of surface appeal featuring brotherly bumblers and undead antics. Heavy with themes of regret, redemption, guilt, and failure, “Zombiology” makes it easy to lose sight of its more mature messages when weapon-wielding superheroes are busily battling cartoon chickens in animated interludes. “Zombiology” flirts with extremely depressing subject matter at times, although energy levels usually boomerang back to pick up the pace again.
Music helps track changing moods. Electric rock and roll intensifies action. Jubilant melodies provide punchlines when jokes steal the spotlight. Given the gamut “Zombiology” runs by bounding between gore, goofiness, and grounded moments of intimate interactions, it’s a welcome consideration that sounds as well as sights take time to synch with any currently depicted tone.
Better described as slightly “weird” than outright “wild,” “Zombiology’s” quirks could come at a steadier clip. The movie rarely sags. Even with regular pauses for quieter bonding scenes between two characters, each spinning plate of heart, horror, and humor remains rotating with zip. Just don’t set expectations for a full bombardment of bizarreness like the premise might imply.
An awkward ending appears poised to leave some viewers underwhelmed at best or disappointed at worst. “Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight” may miss some marks when it comes to satisfying every stroke of comedy, carnage, and character development used to paint a bigger picture. Through the peaks of semi-outlandish theatrics and the valleys of slower soap opera stops, the film’s heart still beats steadily. It also beats in the right place for being earnest as well as enjoyable in spite of occasional schizophrenic style.
As already mentioned, Japan’s status as king of off-the-wall midnight movies currently stays intact. But “Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight” jostles that crown just a bit with a substantial shot across the bow of cinematic craziness.
NOTES: The film’s Mandarin title is “Jin wa da sang shi” and its original title was “Gam man da song si.” There is also a mid-credits scene.
Review Score: 75