Sun faa sau si (Bio-Zombie) (1998) Review

  • Year: 1998
  • Directed by: Wilson Yip
  • Starring: Jordan Chan, Emotion Cheung, Sam Lee, Yiu-Cheung Lai, Angela Tong
  • Written by: Matt Chow, Siu Man Sing

Leave it to Hong Kong to meld zombie horror with Asian comedy. Heavily inspired by the George Romero films like Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, Bio-Zombie focuses on two loser nitwits, Woody Invincible (Siu Chun Chan) and Crazy Bee (Chan Sum Lee), who run a VCD store in a large mall in Hong Kong. When their boss tells them to pick up his car from the garage, they accidentally run over a guy who’s carrying a chemical that turns imbibers into zombies whose bites turn other people into zombies. Woody and Crazy take the body and chemical back to the mall and it isn’t long before zombies are running rampant. It’s up to the survivors to get out of the mall and get to safety.

Taking a page out of another recent monster movie From Dusk Til Dawn, the first half of Bio-Zombie has nothing to do with zombies. Instead, we’re forced to watch the protagonists bumble about as they pull pranks on the citizenry, try to get laid and push around the local sushi chef, Loi (Emotion Chueng). For the most part, the protagonists are despicable and the only reason to root for them is knowing that they are the protagonists and the film needs someone to fight off the zombies, whenever they get there.

When the horror begins, all of the character development for the two heroes is essentially null and void as they take on their survivalist roles. The rest of the cast, like Kui (Yiu-Cheung Lai) in particular, maintain their stereotypes. So if they were a jerk in the first half, you can bet they’ll be the stick in the mud later on. This is a plot driven movie, so don’t expect to see any real character arcs here.

The production value of the film is on the low side, with zombie makeup and ichor clearly caked on. The lack of different sets is also apparent, but they’re shot from different angles to denote different scenes, so the feeling that you’re looking at the same hallway only pops up once in a while. Thankfully, the acting and writing are strong enough to distract from the film’s shortcomings. The comedy is strictly Asian with big facial expressions and manic gesticulations, but it works well in such an absurd situation. At one point, a survivor must fish a key out of a corpse’s mouth, knowing that any moment it might rise as a zombie. All the while, the onlookers – and the audience – cringe in anticipatory delight for the inevitable attack. Who knew that comedy and horror would blend so well?

Bio-Zombie is an interesting mash-up of different genres and even a bit of different media. As the film enters the last act, it inserts stats for each survivor as if they were characters in a video game. This is probably a nod to the popularity of the zombie survival video game series Resident Evil. Fans of Romero’s zombie films will also enjoy the inclusion of Loi as a smart, sympathetic zombie in the vein of Bub. So if you’re a fan of zombie film culture, then you can’t go wrong with Bio-Zombie. Just make sure you can stomach Asian culture as well.