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Bio Zombie (1998) May 20, 2007

Posted by Cal in : Blogroll, Horror, Comedy, 1990s films , trackback

Director: Wilson Yip  Cast: Jordan Chan, Sam Lee, Angela Tong, Lai Yiu-Cheung, Emotion Cheung  Territory: Hong Kong  Production Company: Cameron Entertainment Co

Long before Zack Snyder made the official Dawn of the Dead remake, Wilson Yip (who would later go on to helm the ultra-slick and ultra-stylish SPL) made his own.  Sure, it has more laughs than frights, but the basic premise of a bunch of survivors in a mall over-run with the walking dead remains the same.

The twist here is that the survivors want to get out of the mall as it has become the centre of the zombie activity thanks in no small part to our two heroes.  Woody Invincible (Jordan Chan) and Crazy Bee (Sam Lee) are two slackers who run a dodgy VCD stall in the mall (having seen the quality of their stock, I think I may have purchased some of their VCDs in the past), while Woody’s would-be girlfriend Rolls (Angela Tong) is a vacuous beautician who strings along “Sushi Boy” (the wonderfully named Emotion Cheung), a well-meaning chef in the Mall’s Japanese restaurant just to get a discount.  Rounding out the crew are Woody and Crazy Bee’s scumbag boss Mr Kui (Lai Yiu-Cheung) and his beautiful but downtrodden wife (Tam Suk-Mui).  It is a testament to Lai’s skill as an actor that he pulls off such a vile role so well after playing the kindly, gentle “Piggy” in TVB’s Journey to the West!  From this essentially unlikeable cast of characters we have what passes for Bio Zombie’s heroes – but it’s best not to pass judgement on them until they show their mettle in a crisis situation. 

There’s a plot in here, but for the first forty minutes you’d hardly know it.  A biological agent is stored in a bottle of Lucozade (surely a recipe for disaster right from the start!) and is being sold illegally nearby.  This agent can turn people into killing machines – albeit very slow, shuffling killing machines with a taste for human flesh.  The deal goes horribly wrong when the test case escapes and eats the weapons dealers.  A survivor is picked up by the two slackers when they inadvertently knock him over in their car – and is given a drink from the Lucozade bottle to perk him up!  The survivor, left for dead in the boot of Woody’s car, goes on a rampage when they reach the mall and thus kicks off the zombie invasion.

Something tells me these are zombies... 

There’s some weird stuff in the first half of Bio-Zombie that has nothing whatsoever to do with zombies and has no place in a horror film.  The comedy factor is so high early on that you actually forget what’s going to happen, and when it does, it’s quite a shock.  The acting is quite remarkable at times, and much higher than you’d expect in a movie like this.  The preliminary scenes setting up the heroes and villains pay off big time come the final reel because of all the goofing around earlier, not despite it.  It even conjures up a fair bit of tension at times, particularly when the pair are handcuffed in the Security Guards’ office during an attack. The zombie make-up is not terribly complex or groundbreaking, but this doesn’t hamper the fun in any way.  The zombies themselves are straight out of Romero’s world, and the same rules apply: only severe head wounds (preferably a headshot with a firearm) will stop them, and anything else is just going to fail.   

The Mei-Ah DVD is a bit of a travesty, it has to be said.  There is a US version, I believe, that has a very entertaining dub, but that sort of thing goes against the grain for me and I can’t see myself ever watching it.  The problem with the Mei-Ah disc is the sound – it’s probably the worst I’ve ever heard on DVD.  The picture is no more than adequate, but the subs throw up some strange “Chinglish” on occasions – such as when Woody and Sushi Boy burst into the gents’ toilet to find Crazy Bee in there.  When asked what he was doing, he shouts back, “I am stooling!”.  There are quite a few nuggets like that in here.  The main selling point seems to be the very short alternate ending, but it is rather pointless and seems to have been filmed without serious consideration of actually being used. 

Sam Lee would return (as a different character) in Bio Cops – an unnecessary and unsatisfying sequel that should have taken a headshot in the planning stages.


1. paulwjm - May 21, 2007

Yes the US DVD was released by Media Blasters on their Tokyo Shock label, probably a port from the Mei-Ah disc (it’s similarly non-anamorphic, plus contains the company logo at the beginning) - apparently the English dub is more accurate, as in it doesn’t contain some of the mistakes present in the subtitles you mention but I believe there were some new error-free subs on the MB disc too. However, as far as I can tell, nobody else has had complaints about the soundtrack on the MB so I’m wondering if that’s been improved?

I liked the film and was hoping for a better release of Bio-Z at some point before I bought it as it doesn’t seem to well served on DVD as you point out. Plus the MB disc seems hard to get now.

2. Cal - May 21, 2007

Yeah, it’s just one of a long list of films that I wish had a better version of. Sadly, I don’t think Bio Zombie is high profile enough to ever get another makeover. We’ll see though.

3. Brian Thibodeau - May 25, 2007

This is an absolute classic of the genre! Great review! Wayne Lai is by far one of the most underrated (by westerners) Hong Kong actor of all time. Sure, when he’s in a real dog, you can almost sense him cutting back on his talents, but in stuff like this, he’s takes essentially one-dimensional characters (like the obligatory group-jeopardizer in BIO-ZOMBIE) and makes them shine. OSAKA WRESTLING RESTAURANT is another surprisingly rich performance that comes to mind. I wasn’t expecting anything fantastic, but his performance alone elevated it to must-recommend status. He’s also great in NO PROBLEM 2.

4. Cal - May 25, 2007

I think the only other thing I remember seeing him in was “Stormriders” (as Mud Buddha) but that was essentially an extended cameo. It’s always good to have reaction to an actor along the lines of “Jesus! That can’t be the SAME guy that did…” but that was my reaction to him here. As you know, I’m on the look out for more contemporary movies, so I’ll keep those other titles in mind!

5. Top 10 Zombie Apocalypse Films « Top10Films.co.uk - December 10, 2009

[…] 9. BIO ZOMBIE Hong Kong’s take on DAWN OF THE DEAD, the twist being that the zombies are confined to the mall, and the survivors inside are trying to get out. The first half is almost totally played for laughs, which makes the later scenes all the more effective. Fantastic performances all round, with a wonderfully villainous Wayne Lai. Likelihood of becoming a reality: the infestation’s due to a genetically engineered bio-weapon, so it’s quite plausible. Although I doubt people would carry it about in an old Lucozade bottle. Read Heroes of the East review 8. 28 DAYS LATER Sprinting zombies (sorry, “Infected”) seem a little unsporting if you ask me, but you can’t fault Danny Boyle’s terror trip. Opens with some fantastic footage of a deserted London and ends in the kind of brutality the Infected can’t hope to match. The scene where our heroes are performing an emergency tyre change in a tunnel is one of the most intensely scary scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Likelihood of becoming a reality: it’s more a question of when, not if. […]

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