Zombies…. Those shambling cannibalistic boogymen have made their way into just about every genre of film you might imagine in about every country in the world. Seems they are getting to be a fairly universal part of most every culture’s folklore in some way or another these days. Now… they’ve made their way to Korea in the new anthology piece, “The Neighbor Zombie”. Naturally, a certain Zombie Loving Catgirl is right there to watch every moment….
Our synopsis goes along this way: “The Neighbor Zombie” is comprised of six individual episodes, each centering on the theme of a zombie virus outbreak as it occurs in Seoul, 2010.
Episode 1: “Crack”, An action figure collector accidentally gets infected by the zombie virus in the initial days of the contagion…. How will such a social outsider cope in the face of his horrific transformation as it slowly overtakes him?
Episode 2: “Run Away”, A special love story of a beautiful girl and her romantic boyfriend, who has been infected and is slowly transforming into a zombie. Can pure love survive even this?
Episode 3: “Mother, I Love You”, A woman having to witness her infected mother slowly deteriorate each day takes horrific steps to protect the parent she loves more than her own life itself. How far will she go to keep her safe?
Episode 4: “The Age of Vaccine”, Dr. Park, who acts as a guinea-pig himself, tries to make a vaccine to cure the zombie virus. He finally developing the cure, he’s forced to run from the corporation that would control it at all costs.
Episode 5: “After That, I’m So Sorry”, After the development of vaccine, Seoul once again finds peace. However, the future is still uncertain for those who were cured. How can those once driven by diseased insanity to eat others find peace and understanding from the survivors?
Episode 6: “Pain Killer”, A story about strained life of a writer, who always has to work under tight deadline with the new problem of a zombie virus to complicate things?.”
I’ve heard some mixed things on this one, but as always, I’d rather give a movie like this a watch first before having my own opinion on it. Think you might want to see it too? Then hunker down, get comfy and let Neko tell ya all about it.
So, a Zombie anthology film? Not exactly what one expects from the genre, but not necessarily a bad idea either. As with most such collaborations the results can be somewhat mixed and having given “The Neighbor Zombie” a watch I can say that’s definitely the feel here. The individual segments are done by different directors, and it certainly shows as the stories lurch from comedy to horror to social commentary with little cohesive link beyond the overall story frame work of the Zombie Apocalypse itself. There’s a sort of time-line here…. we see the initial outbreak, a couple of tales set during the height of the disaster, the turning point of the “cure”, and the aftermath of it all and the effect it has on a society trying to make sense of it all. Some of the stories are stronger than others, but all have a unique and very individual slant on an old idea.
Our first segment, “Crack” directed by Oh Young-doo, is a tiny little look at the way a social misfit and shut-in deals with his slow mutation into flesh eating monster. The idea of his simply ignoring his physical and mental deterioration in the obsessive pursuit of his “otaku” resin figure hobby is almost more scary than the fate that awaits the mailman who delivers his “toys”. It’s a short sequence… with no real dialog. The hallucinatory fight he has to experience as he simply tries in vain to leave his apartment for help is so unreal…. and it makes me wonder if he ever did leave, even as a zombie. What would he eat if trapped there alone by his mental illness? Think about it for a moment……. Brrrrr!!
Episode 2 “Run Away” also directed by Oh Young-doo, carries us to another part of the initial outbreak and deals with a surreal couple of lovers trapped within their apartment by the roving government troops looking to curb the outbreak by killing all those infected by the virus. The problem? While the girl is uninfected, her boyfriend is slowly being mutated by the plague…. How long before hunger overwhelms love? What’s a girl to do? Leave him to his fate or become his victim? How about joining him in his zombie world? Sound insane? It is… and it’s this surreal, wacky approach that makes this one stand out as perhaps the strangest of the stories included.
Segment 3: “Mother, I Love You” directed by Hong Young-geun comes closest to a straight up horror story, relating with gory detail the lengths to which someone might go to protect a loved one from the authorities in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse. Imagine if you will… a daughter determined to keep her cannibalistic mother satisfied by feeding her pieces of her own flesh. At least until a cop comes to the door to see that everything is OK, that is….. There’s some truly grisly stuff in this one that made this lil’ Catgirl squirm uncomfortably…. but that’s the strength of this particular segment… it pulls no punches to show the depths to which a person might be driven when even the insane seems the only real choice. Zombie momma wrapped in plastic food wrap to keep her from falling to bits….. the quiet organized way her daughter manages to prepare her “meals”….. all perfectly played. This one will stick with you a while….
The fourth segment: “The Age of Vaccine” directed by Ryoo Hoon gives a look at the scientist behind the mistake that started it all and his quest to find a cure. Seems our zombies aren’t so much undead revenants as plague victims after all and once the good doctor finds the cure he runs afoul of the corporation he works for…. who want to profit from the disaster while covering up their liability. It’s another short one, told from the standpoint of a couple of swat troopers who encounter the good doctor while he’s on the run from a corporate merc out to silence him and recover the vaccine. The most action oriented of the stories, and not the best… but certainly well within the genre as we understand it. It brings nothing new or novel to the film, but does give us our dose of conspiracy theory ala “Resident Evil” as well as help us reach the climax of the zombie outbreak.
However, it’s segment 5: “After That, I’m So Sorry” directed by Jang Yoon-jung that struck your Favorite Catgirl as the stand-out of the entire film. Taking place after the zombie plague has ended with the widespread use of the vaccine to restore many of the previously “zombified” back to health and sanity, it explores the impact upon society that must somehow move forward knowing the horrors that were inflicted by both those who turned zombie as well as those who remained human. Our protagonist, once a zombie, carries with him both the physical scars as well as some deep psychological ones from his experience as one of the cannibals. He’s now a part of a new despised class…. unable to find work… shunned by all but those who also were once as he was…. and worse yet, fully aware of the memories of what he has done. He keeps encountering a pretty young girl… who keeps stabbing him with a knife and then vanishing without explanation. It’s disconcerting to say the least… but only one of the things that seem to have his life in turmoil. Eventually he discovers the girl is the daughter of two of the people he killed and ate, and she wants revenge, caring little for the fact that he was insane and sick and unable to stop himself from committing those horrific acts. Throw in another desperate former zombie, driven to robbery to support himself, and who carries his own hate and resentment of the treatment he and others have suffered since the “cure” and you just know somethings going to go terribly bad. Of all of the stories…. I think this one was the most unique look at zombies and uses them to examine the petty nature of humanity the best. On the strength of this segment alone, I can recommend “The Neighbor Zombie” as being worth a look.
Episode 6: “Pain Killer” directed by Hong Young-geun wraps things up, returning to the beginning of the plague and the fate of a writer, so wrapped up in his need to finish a piece before a crushing deadline that somehow he misses his own transformation….. It’s done without dialog, or subtitles…. and is so short that it was hard for me to get a grip on it without giving it a second look. Ultimately it was stylish and well filmed, but seemed an empty ending after the fifth segment of the film had impressed me so much. Ah well… they can’t all be winners, now can they?
So… what sort of rating does “The Neighbor Zombie” deserve overall? Hmmm? That’s a tough question, given the uneven feeling that the stories have. They don’t really mesh together well, and don’t all have the same feeling to them. It gives the film a very queer sense of actually been pieced together from episodes of a TV series rather than intended as a complete film. I have to say, I would have liked it better I think, if the characters had somehow woven the stories together more, but that doesn’t happen. Without the truly thought provoking 5th segment, I could imagine recommending this one as anything more than a simple exercise in standard zombie hi-jinx seen through Korean eyes. But that 5th segment alone…. There’s the real pay-off. I give this one 3 “Meows” out of 5, with a special purr of appreciation for that segment, which raises this offering from complete confusing obscurity to something definitely worth a look. The Korean DVD is good, being Region 3 NTSC and letterbox formatted, but unfortunately…. as with most newer Korean discs… is a bit pricey coming in at about 30$ US. If this one sounds like it’s something you want to see, Neko recommends waiting till that inevitable HK release comes along with a much easier price tag.
Until then…. I leave you with the Trailer, and until the next time the zombies come shambling around, “Meow, meow for now o’ Gentle Visitors!”