Korea seems to have an obsession for several things; Kimchi for one, the down at heel wanting to make it big and zombies. They regularly combine some, or all, of these things into their movies.
This brings me on to Zombie For Sale, a wonderfully funny, silly, happy little tale of the Park family, owners of a gas station in the Boonies (Korean for ‘the sticks’), who hit on a money making scheme that doesn’t involve ripping off passing motorists with expensive repairs.
A large pharmaceutical company called Human In Bio have been developing something called NoInsulin. They’ve also been bribing local officials and grabbing the homeless off the streets to run human trials early.
One of their test subjects, thought to be dead, escapes and winds up making his way to the Park family gas station where he bites the father, In-Hwan Park (“Thirst”, “Unexpected Love”). Rather than turning into a zombie though, elder Park becomes younger park who “pisses like a teenager” and becomes youthful looking.
It’s not long before others in the small village notice and want in. Park, realising there’s money to be made and desperately wanting a ticket to Hawaii, ropes his family into help.
Father Joon-Gul Park, Jae-Young Jung (“Going By The Book”, “Moss”), the son Min-Gul, Nam-Gil Kim (“Live Up To Your Name (TV)”, “One Day”), the mother Nam-Yoo, Ji-Won Uhm (“Hope”, “The Silenced”), and the daughter Hae-Gul, Soo-kyung Lee (“Father, I’ll Take Care Of You (TV)”, “Let’s Eat (TV)”), are immediately enrolled into the scheme.
The scheme is simple, people line up and, one-by-one, the zombie, now named Jjong-Bi, Ga-ram Jung (“Believer”, “The Poet And The Boy”), by Hae-Gul, will bite them on the arm, once they’ve covered it in Gochujang or other red sauce. Jjong-Bi seems more interested in the brain-like cabbages he loves to munch on all day whilst Hae-Gul tries to get him to speak.
With virtually the whole village bitten, it’s not long before they begin to show signs of the next steps in the zombie transformation, that of wanting to bite others and turn-them. Once this happens the whole village is overrun with zombies and the Park family end-up trapped at their own gas station.
The film, which is also known as “The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale”, is zany by Western standards though toned down somewhat by Korean standards.
Co-writer and director Min-jae Lee and co-writer Seo-In Jung riff on the genre, turning the tale on the zombie in the beginning as he is chased by a large dog and side-stepped by two old women who are nattering away to each other and think he’s a drunk.
No it’s not ground breaking or genre-defying and yes, it is madcap at times, but it’s also very funny and, despite being a zombie film, is more about family, the want for a better life and get rich quick schemes.