Saturday, July 23, 2011

In short: The Neighbor Zombie (2009)

An HIV vaccine developed in India has a the unfortunate side effect of creating a zombie virus. Victims slowly or rapidly - depending on their emotional state - develop a rather animal-esque disposition and a hunger for human flesh.

The virus makes its way to South Korea, where the government soon enough declares martial law and orders the military to shoot the infected on sight. The film follows the development of the situation from the first infection to the discovery of a vaccine and the aftermath of the catastrophe in six episodes directed by four different directors (all of whom also have two or three other roles to play in the production, which hints at this not being a very well-funded film) that plotwise reach from the tale of a geek who is infected by something living in his walls (like two of the film's other parts directed by Oh Young-doo), to the tale of a woman (Lim Jeong-seon) slowly feeding parts of her own body to her zombiefied mother (as directed by Hong Young-geun) because she still is her mother - zombie or not, to some Resident Evil crap (as directed by Ryoo Hoon), to the tale of a man who can't come to grips with the things he did when he was a zombie and additionally has to cope with a girl who wants to kill him and a mad robber with a hate-on for people who weren't zombies (directed by Jang Youn-jung).

Tonally, most of the film is positioned at the place where melodrama, Korean black humour and quite a few clever ideas about the emotional impact of a zombie apocalypse on people meet. For most of the episodes, this works out better than one would expect - the directors are quite good at letting their film's tonal fluctuations look organic and believable; most importantly, they know when to stop joking.

And though not all the film's ideas about zombies are original, they're definitely on the more intelligent side of the zombie movie spectrum, showing more interest in what this sort of catastrophe would do with people than in zombie action clichés. I did especially appreciate the fact that there's a time after the catastrophe in the movie, an idea basically unexplored in the zombie film canon. The only exception to this rule of interest in people is Ryoo Hoon's episode, which plays out like a bad Resident Evil fan film (yup, it's worse than the actual Resident Evil movies), with mediocre martial arts, people who inject themselves with a zombie drug and some awkward stuff about a government conspiracy. Needless to say, this part of the film sticks out like a sore thumb, and needlessly drags the film down into what's most annoying about the zombie-film sub-genre.

Fortunately, the rest of the film is good enough for me to just ignore this faux pas and praise the film as a whole as a demonstration of independent filmmaking spirit, where having not much of a budget is a thing to work around, and not something carted out as an excuse to not even try to make a decent movie.


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