South Korean family cashes in on zombie

By Tom Von Malder | Jul 26, 2020
Photo by: Arrow Video The poster for the South Korean horror comedy, "Zombie for Sale," shows the Park family, with the zombie in the center.

Owls Head — Zombie for Sale (South Korea, Arrow, Blu-ray, NR, 112 min.). Much like the Oscar-attracting “Parasite,” this South Korean film is about a family in peril that tries to profit from a sudden opportunity that turns into escalating chaos, with social commentary built in. However, “Zombie for Sale” is a much funnier film as it takes a completely different take on the usual zombie film.

The family in peril runs a dilapidated gas station in the remote town of Pungsan. A sign of how bad things are is they leave out spikes in a nearby highway to cause crashes, so they can tow and fix the broken vehicles at slightly exorbitant fees. Meanwhile, a solo teenage zombie (Ga-ram Jung of “Beasts That Cling to the Straw”) is roaming the outskirts of the town, presumedly looking for brains to eat. Early TV newscasts indicate that NoInsulin, developed by Human in Bio, is causing bad side effects, one of which is creating zombies.

The film’s teenage zombie is having trouble finding dinner. He goes right through two women who are walking, is toyed with by three children, then growls at a dog, which proceeds to chase him. Ending up in the gas station restroom, he is attacked by the family’s grandfather, Man-duk Park, who is wielding a plunger. A girl kicks him in the groin, then the zombie is hit by a truck, driven by another member of the Park family, and thrown yards into a field, where he gets up and wanders off. It appears to be a hard, unfulfilling life for the zombie.

The twist comes when the zombie returns to the gas station and bites Man-duk on the head and Man-duk Pak appears like he has turned two decades-younger the next day – after an evening of the rest of the family, armed with the “Zombie Survival Guide,” deciding whether to kill grandfather or not. Not only does the family realize they have a zombie in hand – chained in the large garage and being fed heads of cabbage, which he probably likes because of the resemblance to a human brain – but they start to think of ways to get quickly rich off their new guest, whom the young female member names Jjong-bi. Grandfather, wanting to fund his always-delayed trip to Hawaii, decides to sell zombie bites to his elderly friends as a rejuvenation medicine. The clients stick their bare arms into a hole in the wall, ketchup is applied and the zombie bites away.

However, the more city-oriented son decides to steal Jjong-bi and take him to a pharmaceutical research company. Of course, the rest of the family stops him. Meanwhile, the young female is becoming friends with the zombie and the family gets him a haircut and buys him new clothes. At this point, all the women in town who see Jjong-bi consider him “hot.” For his part, Jjong-bi eats his cabbage with the rest of the family and he even – hilariously – tries to wash the gas station’s windows.

This is a horror comedy, so eventually things start to go very wrong, leading to some fun-filled scenes of mayhem concocted by first-time director Lee Min-jae, who also wrote the clever script. The actors, who include several of South Korea’s best known, all play their roles well.

As usual, Arrow Video has some solid extras, including audio commentary by filmmakers-critics Sam Ashurst and Dan Martin, a Q&A with director Min-jae from 1 2019 screening at Asian Pop-Up Cinema in Chicago (12:55) and a video essay by critic and producer Pierce Conran on South Korea’s family-in-peril style comedies, including “The Quiet Family,” “Castaway on the Moon,” “Parasite” and “Zombie for Sale,” among others (19:40). There also are a humorous making-of featurette (9:24) and two behind-the-scenes promo segments (2:05). Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 3 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Scoob! (Warner Bros., Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG, 94 min.). This animated film, which starts as an origin story, is more frenetic than funny. The best part of the film is the opening, where we see how Scooby-Doo gets his name and first meets longtime pal Shaggy. Scooby (voiced by Frank Welker) has stolen a tube of compressed meat near Venice Beach and is hiding from a policeman, when Shaggy (voiced by Will Forte) settles down nearby, lamenting his lack of friends. The two connect and the name comes from a package of Scooby Snacks.

A bit later, Scooby and Shaggy are doing the Halloween thing, when some bad boys throw their bag of candy into an alleged haunted house. Along come Velma (voiced by Gina Rodriguez), dressed as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Fred (Zac Efron) to help recover the candy. The result is their first battle with a “ghost,” leading to the formation of Mystery Inc., with their ages advancing during the film’s theme song.

In a bit that I found very funny, Simon Cowell, as himself, plays a possible investor in Mystery Inc., leading Scooby and Shaggy to sing a horrible version of Lady Gaga’s “Shallow.” Cowell says he cannot invest with Scooby and Shaggy on the team, so they go off bowling on their own.

However, the pins and bowling balls soon turn into little killer crab-like robots, called the Rottens, which I found to be kind of cute. As the film’s pace accelerates, the duo is rescued by a traction beam from the space ship Falcon Fury, piloted by Dee Dee Sykes (one of the many examples of other Hanna Barbera cartoon characters being thrown into the mix; another is an encounter with Capt. Caveman, voiced by Tracy Morgan). Kiersey Clemons voices Sykes. While the Falcon Fury is owned by superhero Blue Falcon, it actually is now controlled by his somewhat inept son, Brian Fury (Mark Wahlberg).

From then on, Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) repeatedly attacks the Falcon Fury. He is after two of the three skulls of legendary ghost dog Cerberus, having one already. The skulls are the key to Alexander the Great’s hidden fortune. Dastardly has Dynomutt on his side.

The screenplay is credited to four writers and another two writers worked on the story. That is way too many for what should be a simple movie, especially one based on characters that have been around for 50 or so years. Of the action sequences, the best was the amusement park. I’m still not sure about the why of what happened during the climax.

Of the extras, the bloopers show the voice actors in the recording studio flubbing (3:58) and the 10 deleted, unfinished scenes do nicely expand on some of the film’s moments (19:48). I liked how they went about collecting the Halloween candy the best, although how Dastardly got the first skull is not bad. Director Tony Cervone (many Tom & Jerry, a previous Scooby-Doo) gives an introduction for each of the deleted scenes. There also is a how to draw Scooby-Doo (10:16), a look at the new friends and enemies with the voice actors (6:21) and a sort-of-unrelated look at cast and crew’s puppies (1:05). Grade: film and extras 2.5 stars

Attraction 2: Invasion (Russia, Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 133 min.). The first film dealt with a battle with alien invaders and is summarized at the start of this follow-up, which takes place three years later. Due to the events of the last film (2017), Yulya (Irina Starshenbaum) is apparently now a bit non-human and Ministry of Defense scientists are examining her abilities. Her father is Col. Lebedeva (Oleg Menshikov).

In addition to the military trying to harness her powers, the film reveals that one last alien artificial intelligence up in orbit considers her a threat that must be destroyed. At one point, the alien AI controls Yulya’s car from space. Also, although considered dead, the alien Hariton (Rinal Mukhametov) resurfaces to become Yulya’s protector.

Not having seen the first film, a lot of the background was more of a jumble to me, but when the alien spaceship attacks Moscow by putting it in a water bumble and gradually flooding it – for both above and below – the special effects get quite spectacular. Overall, the film looks very good, much better than the plot and especially the dialogue. (The Blu-ray defaults to an English-dubbed version, which, hilariously, keeps getting numbers wrong.)

The film has 13 minutes of end credits. The only bonus is a promo featurette (6:59). Grade: film 2.25 stars; extra ½ star

Gundala (Indonesia, Well Go USA, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 124 min.). Based on a comic book, this is the origin story of a superhero – he attracts and uses lightning – who is only named Gundala in the closing, coda scene, which egregiously introduces a previously unseen arch-enemy. The main problem with the film is it is too slow in developing.

Suncaka (Abimana Aryasatya) is to become the hero, but for nearly three-quarters of the film, he mostly looks away when people are being harassed by debt collectors or gangs. The film even goes back to his childhood, when his father is knifed in a labor battle and his mother disappears for weeks. He ends up busking in the city for food and briefly interacts with Agung, who teaches him to fight.

Switching to when Suncaka is an adult, he takes on gang members once or twice and even is thrown off a roof, but lightning reviews him. He develops his “hero” suit to protect others from the lightning and to have The Flash-like metal ears to draw the lightning to himself. Apparently, his lightning charges do not last that long. While the film takes a long time to get there, when Suncaka fights, it comes to life.

Most mystifying is a subplot about contaminated rice that might lead to mothers giving birth to “immoral” babies, although how a baby can be born immoral is beyond me. It seems the real threat is the antidote serum that these mothers are going to be injected with across the country.

Extras are minimal: a production vlog (2:50) and four behind-the-scenes shorts (19:29 combined). Grade: film 2 stars; extras 1 star

Clueless: 25th Anniversary Edition (1995, Paramount, Blu-ray or Steelbook Blu-ray, PG-13, 97 min.). Writer-director Amy Heckerling’s film about the high school set continues to delight as a breezy comedy with some sharp writing. The film is loosely based on Jane Austin’s “Emma,” with Beverly Hills substituted for Yorkshire, England. However, this is the same as the 2012 release, with no new supplemental material.

The protagonist is fashion-savvy Cher (Alicia Silverstone), whose main business in school seems to be negotiating her grades upwards. When one teacher (Wallace Shawn as Mr. Hall) resists, she decides to try to match him with a fellow teacher (Twink Caplan as Miss Geist), so he will be happier and thus more lenient in grading. Matchmaking and makeovers are the things that Cher feels she is best at.

Cher’s best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) already has a boyfriend, but Cher takes on new student Tai (Brittany Murphy), first trying to hook her up with Elton (Jeremy Sisto), not realizing that Elton is more into Cher. Tai has gravitated more naturally toward Travis (Breckin Meyer), a seeming stoner. Midway through the film, Cher becomes friends with Jason Priestly look-alike Christian (Justin Walker), with the audience catching on more quickly than Cher that Christian likes boys. Orbiting the fringes at first, but moving more toward the center is Josh (Paul Rudd, future “Ant-Man”), Cher’s previously seldom seen stepbrother (one of her dad’s brief wives’ previous children).

Much of the humor comes in the dialogue and realizing how truly clueless Cher is. However, there is a funny scene of learner-permit-only Dionne accidentally driving onto the turnpike. In one class, Cher likens immigration problems to people who showed up to her father’s birthday party without RSVPing.

The carried-over extras include a trivia game; a look at the actors (18:31); a look at the film’s fashion (10:46); a look at the slang in the film (8:09); a tutorial on the “suck and blow” card game (2:47); driver’s ed (3:47); and a look at how the movie treats teenagers (8:52). Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 3 stars

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