It’s been a while since we featured Asian zombies here at Zombie Club, and considering the likes of recent crowd-pleasers such as Versus and Wild Zero (both from the year 2000) we thought it about time to take a trip back East to look at what else is on zombie offer.
First up is Thailand’s first ever zombie film, Sars Wars, a) because we’d been lucky enough to catch it at last year’s Firecracker festival and b) because it’s ace. Teamed up with that, we’ve got Japan’s other zombie film from the year 2000, the madcap and energetic Junk. Zombies - we love’em, whatever country they come from…
Tonight’s selection is brought to you by Rawshark and The Japanese Engrish Erocution Society
Sars Wars (2004)
Plot A kidnapped girl, two heroes, a transsexual baddie, lots of zombies and a big bad snake.
Rawshark Let’s get one thing straight; Sars Wars doesn't take itself very seriously. And seeing as this film is primarily a comedy (albeit one that features lots of zombies and blood-soaked head-splats) that’s a good thing, because Sars Wars is undoubtedly one of the craziest and funniest b-movies that has appeared in ages.
When a gang kidnaps young school girl Liu, her father employs the assistance of Master Thep who sends in his best man, the suitably armed Khun Krabii, to rescue the girl. Unfortunately a zombie outbreak caused by a new strain of the Sars virus means the Master must team up with a scientist specialist (the fetishistic Dr Diana) to save the day. You can open your zombie textbook for the rest of the plot (secured building, an ever growing zombie attack, goodies and baddies teaming up to take on the undead terror), but you can also throw it away, because the scriptwriters of this film certainly have.
Made with a Monty Python style wink to the camera and a loving homage to other classic genre movies, Sars Wars is a cracker from start to finish. The baddies are great (”Here we go – there’s the fat guy with a shotgun!”” - Jim), the goodies are even better (”Yay! The Master’s back in the action!” - Zomblee), and the Thai humour is 90% spot-on. There was many a cheer tonight, ranging from the first appearance of the impressive-looking zombies, through to Dr Diana’s saucy strip, the baby attack (prevented by its own umbilical cord), and the final stereo battery solution for that damned mutant snake. And I haven’t even had room to mention the STOP VIRUS BULLET, the formulas from A to Z, or the three sexual positions that Khun Krabii finally manages to try out on lucky Liu…
“Blow my whistle for me. Quick, blow it hard!”
Jim “We seem to watch a lot of movies where people spit oozy stuff into other people’s mouths” commented Zomblee as that archetypal fat guy zombie spewed ooze into the mouth of that sexy snake owning Thai lady in the frilly blue nightie. Yes, it’s all kicking off in the ‘Wiman Chimplee Condominium’ tonight; first off a Sars-infected mosquito has passed the disease on to the fat guy, he’s puked zombie puke on the sexy chick, she’s attacked the cat, and the cat’s got eaten by the snake. And all of them are now zombies (except for the cat who’s been eaten, although the snake now does make meow noise, so figure that one out).
In the next door apartment, Yai, the transvestite boss with an evil temper, has kidnapped school girl Liu. His goons turn out to be a bit pointless though and she escapes using a bathroom window double bluff move, which gives Yai the excuse to call his stooges ”fucking morons!” and slap them about the head a lot, Benny Hill style.
Meanwhile downstairs, a rather under-funded Hyperman (he’s like a low-budget Thai rent-a-kung-fu hero) has arrived looking for her (they left their return address on the ransom note, would you believe) but instead stumbles into a drug-fuelled party. The pie-eyed clubbers aren’t much help so he heads up stairs, bumps into the zombies, bumps into Yai and his goons and the girl he’s supposed to be rescuing, and the rest of the plot sort of writes itself; zombies attack clubbers, Yai’s stooges run from zombies, Hyperman and the girl run from everyone, and so on. Then the SWAT team turn up, cordon off the building, and things really start to kick off.
Much of Sars Wars just had us rolling around with laughter. Lena ‘specialist’ Five Pants turns up halfway through sporting rubber bondage underwear (eh?) and a suitcase full of potential vaccines which she likes to try on any zombies she comes across, often with hilariously disastrous results ( “on to formula no. 2 then…” - Zomblee). Meanwhile Yai’s stooges go gung-ho in the foyer but generally embarrass themselves, one guy in particular executing a perfect diving two-gun combo – Johnny Woo style – only to land Marilyn Monroe like in the arms of a string of waiting zombies, who consequently eat him. And every now and again, one of the goons will get eaten by, as Rawshark put it, “that giant snake that we’d all forgotten about…” Add to that a couple of animation sequences that put those in Kill Bill to shame, and you’ve got one hell of a movie here.
“I think your student is eating the girl.”
Zomblee The animation sequences rock, well, as much as the rest of the film; you may have to pinch yourself to check that you're really seeing what's happening onscreen in this first (and very welcome) Thai zombie movie. Sars Wars is bloomin' mental - the kind of movie where you really can't predict what's going to happen next. Despite this unpredictability, it does somehow manage to tick the boxes in terms of necessary plot elements for any Zombie Club movie: "Every good Zombie Club movie should introduce a specialist halfway through!" (Jim). Yeah, especially if she looks like Dr Diana. I think we'd all like to be under her, er, care.
This self-referencing zombfest just wants to make you laugh and scratch your head in disbelief most of the time so anyone out there in search of something more serious in tone, steer well clear because George Romero this surely ain't. Once accepted on its own terms however, it's terrific fun as well as being a mostly deftly executed affair with an effective atmosphere, some really cool zombies and a lot of that slice-and-dice sword action stuff where limbs drop off one-by-one afterwards. And a giant snake we kept forgotting about.
Rawshark and Jim mentioned the 'Stop Virus Bullets' (could they be called anything else?), which I thought were so cool in terms of bringing something new to the ever-expanding zombie film rulebook. The bullets land a white splat (I’m not sure how else to describe that, sorry) on the zombie's forehead, immobilising them for a period of time while survivors try to find a way out. It's a marvellous little plot device that provides license for all manner of silliness, like some welcome erotic dancing to raise the SVB's recipient's heart rate.
Aided by a cool soundtrack that Rawshark effectively summed up as "rock with techno over the top", this mad little movie will definitely keep you awake (and perhaps a little stunned) with its blend of rabid zombies, incompetent criminals, righteous-but-slightly-crap superheroes, sexy chicks and a warrior master with a magic green sword that keeps running out of batteries. A magic sword that keeps running out of batteries? Fuck me, I’m still laughing.
"We have a zombie, a bomb, and now a giant snake. This movie is really aiming for some cash!"
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Plot Fight the zombies
Zomblee Junk is an altogether more traditional zombie film, made when the Japanese filmmakers were definitely not trying as hard to be all wildly crazy and original. With this tidy little deadhead bullet festival, the laws of Romero and Fulci's living dead are pretty much adhered to, with obvious affection and love for the prototype zombie masters.
After raiding a jewellery store, a small band of crooks drive out of town to an isolated compound where they plan to meet Roman, a Yakuza "fence", which Jim informed us was the correct name for someone in the criminal underworld who gives you cash for your stolen goods. Thing is, the location they've chosen was once used as a secret army base where scientists who speak very bad Engerish developed and tested the DNX formula. In other words, green goo that defeats death, giving corpses the inclination to get up and start moving around really slowly with that slack-necked look. And an appetite for human flesh. What follows is the development of an ever-increasing zombie army and the army's attempt to destruct the base and all within, in a nothing happened here kind of way.
Takeshi, the doctor involved with the DNX programme has to work against the clock with the US Army in order to prevent further spread of the gut-munchers. For someone in such an important role, he should really have worked on his Engerish a little more, because, as Rawshark said, "If you look away from the screen you can't understand him," but Junk is actually quite short, so why not take the opportunity to put the rewind button to good use and listen to his dodgy Engerish over and over like we do here at Zombie Club.
Junk is by no measure a demanding film to watch, it's just a modest little zombie film that manages to amuse (both intentionally and otherwise), entertain and satisfy with a "good head rate", decent characters like Saki, the only female cast member, who just wants the money to buy the car of her dreams and move on. One of my favourite things about this film however is the way they lifted an entire zombie scene from Zombie Flesh Eaters. You may have heard of that one. Directed by someone called Fulcio or something, who liked maggots.
"We can brow up the ravatry."
Jim Dude, I think you're flattering Junk with the Zombie Flesh Eaters comparison. Personally I think this crazy little Japanese flick is more influenced by Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 (or Zombi 3, if you prefer that title), and that's not something I thought I'd ever be able to say about another movie! It's true though; both share a zombie outbreak caused by some funky goo, both have scientists, soldiers with helicopters and they also both have a decent amount of show stopping headshots. Oh, and an intro that's almost shot-for-shot identical with the naïve scientists fucking up an experiment on a dead body, like you do (providing you ain't watching the UK edit of Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 though, as that scene's inexplicably cut from that version).
So, Junk. What's it all about? Well, there's actually a rather sad love story hidden away in there somewhere between that “bad speaking Jap guy” (Rawshark) and the hot chick from the cover, but there's so much else going on that it's quite hard to find. We've got those jewel thieves, that fence and his gang to contend with, plus “a zombie hand at 23 minutes!” In fact, Zomblee got very excited about that hand, and who can blame him? “Look at that hand, that's a brilliant hand! That's the kind of hand you want to have on your zombies!” Sheesh - thank God maggots weren't involved.
Anyway, if you like your zombie movies cheap but cheerful, you can’t go too far wrong with Junk. Hitting the DVD market around the same time as Wild Zero and Versus, Junk is probably the weakest of the three, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Like Zomblee said, Junk came out right at the beginning of the J-horror boom, and in that respect it’s nice how undemanding it turns out to be. Plus it contains a “deep throat” sequence (Rawshark), a “munch montage” (Zomblee) and a finale which involves bad speaking Jap guy steaming in with an M16 which he holds at shoulder height to make those headshots a little easier. Sweet.
“I’m going to the Priest!”
Rawshark That bad-speaking doctor really was (zombies aside) one of the main highlights of Junk. Thank God for subtitles then, because without them, we would never have understood a word of it, even though he was speaking in ‘Engerish’. If you can imagine the phrase ”I’m going to the police” sounding something like ”I’m going the priest”, you’ll get the picture. And as Zomblee has already said, much fun was had out of the rewind button whenever he appeared on screen. Rubbery stuff indeed.
Bad-speaking doctor aside, Junk is another fun addition to the zombie cannon, and although not as funny as Wild Zero or as mind-blowingly hectic as Versus, it certainly has its moments. Gang member Akira is cool, naked zombie girl Kyoko is even cooler (especially when still attacking with half her body missing) and the zombies look great. Zomblee was especially pleased, as not only does this film feature great zombie hands and maggots, there were also lots of entrails on display. ”You gotta do entrails in a zombie movie!”. Quite right Zomblee. Jim also got excited at all the ”green goo!” and you also get decapitations, steel poles through stomachs and a kick-ass bitch fight. You’ll have to agree, that’s quite a lot of bang for your buck.
Ok, so the plot quickly runs out of steam towards the end, and it’s not always easy to identify with the characters, but for pure gut-munching gore and zombie action, Junk is a long way from being trash.
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It’s not often we attempt two subtitled films in a row here at Zombie Club (the alcohol has a tendency to blur vision somewhere around the midway point of the second film), but with these two films tonight, we’re glad we did. Junk is the more well-known and most readily available of tonight’s movies, and is definitely worth hunting out of you’re a zombie fan or if you get a kick out of listening to bad english (that’s the language, not the rock group).
But it’s Sars Wars that rose triumphant tonight in the battle of the Asian stumble-muncher movies with crowd-pleasing humour, lots of action, good gore, cool characters and lashings of sexual innuendo (although admittedly no nudity – this is a Thai movie after all). Currently only available on a Region 3 disc, you may have to look hard to find it (thanks Soulmining for picking up our copy on a recent trip East), but if you enjoy comedy creeping into your horror / Kung Fu flicks, Sars Wars really cannot be recommended highly enough.
Coming Soon: Jim positively wets his pants at the thought of bringing Jimmy Wang Yu’s Master of the Flying Guillotine and cult classic The Man From Hong Kong, starring George Lazenby no less, to the Zombie Club DVD player.
8th Jun 04 The film opens with a very similar voiceover narration to the original (see Trivia) but with different footage as we tour the furnace room, all fingernail scratches and blood-clotted hair, of the Hewitt residence.