Monday, 9 March 2020

The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale (2019)

AKA Zombie For Sale.

Directed by Lee Min-jae, who also wrote the film with Jung Seo-in, The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale (screened at Glasgow Frightfest 2020 under the catchier title of Zombie For Sale) is yet another in the now surprisingly numerous selection of films you could label rom-zom-com.

Jeong Jae-yeong plays Joon-Gul, a man who runs a non-profitable garage in a small town. To drum up business, he sets traps on the road and then rescues startled drivers once their tyres have blown out. This is all to raise money that he hopes will help both him and his pregnant wife, Nam-Joo (played by Uhm Ji-won). The family also consists of a selfish father/grandfather (Man-deok, played by Park In-hwan), a young adult daughter (Hae-Gul, played by Lee Soo-kyung), and a young man returning from time spent in a city job (Min-Gul, played by Kim Nam-gil)
Jung Ga-ram is the zombie at the heart of things. He seems to be quite dopey and sweet, but he IS a zombie. So when he crashes into the life of those above, things get messy. But it turns out that a zombie bite can actually make people feel better, and more youthful. This works on Man-deok, who in turn charges many of his friends for their shot of vitality. But will there be any downside? Surely having so many people bitten by a zombie is just asking for trouble.

It may run slightly overlong, clocking in with a runtime of 112 minutes, and it may spend too much time only using one zombie as the source for a number of gags, but Zombie For Sale (I'm going to keep using the less wieldy title for now) proves to be more than JUST a knockabout comedy when it takes things up a notch during a fantastic final act. What Min-jae does so well is allow viewers to get to know the set ways of some of the characters, and then either keep using those to maintain some comedy through the more tense moments or change them as we see how the characters end up evolving. It also helps that he has one character explaining the threat of zombies to other characters by showing them a clip of Train To Busan (a great gag, and also a brave choice for the maker of any zombie movie, even one with such an emphasis on comedy).

Ga-ram is a good zombie, a slow-witted muncher who you see learning things ever so slowly as the movie plays out, and who is also kept just as happy by cabbages covered in ketchup as he is by human flesh. In-hwan is amusing in his portrayal of the thoughtless patriarch of the family, all ready to head off on a holiday once he has got what he wanted, and Jae-yeong is entertainingly hapless when it comes to doing what is best for his family, although he has a strong flying kick to help out in most situations. Ji-won is a formidable woman, handy with a frying pan, and Soo-kyung is the one who seems to see a young man still residing somewhere inside the zombie. Nam-gil may seem to be playing the least of the main characters, particularly as he doesn't display any strong connection to anyone else, but he does as well as anyone else, and gets to relay the required zombie info to those not in the know.

It may play out in a way that is too silly for some, but Zombie For Sale is a well-constructed comedy that knows the rules of the sub-genre, but also knows how they can be played around with and used in a way that is best for the plotting. The script is constantly entertaining, no small detail is there by chance, and the ending proves what a good job has been done, managing to create a small amount of tension even as the laughs continue to come along fairly frequently.


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