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Zombie for Sale
The biggest pharmaceutical corporation in South Korea has been up to no good, conducting clandestine experiments of a rather ominous nature. When a test subject named Jjong-Bi (Ga-Ram Jung), part of an experiment involving reanimating the dead, escapes from the company's high tech laboratory, he winds up taking up residence at a gas station owned and operated by the Park family. No angels themselves, the Parks have a bit of a racket going where they con tourists and out-of-towners out of money, and while they're not even close to affluent, they manage to get by.
When the Parks learn that there's a zombie hiding out in their place of business, the patriarch of the family gets bitten, but rather than morph into a shambling corpse, he instead finds a new zest for life. Realizing that they've got a money-making opportunity on their hands, the Parks launch a plan to exploit Jjong-Bi, charging anyone wiling to pay a hefty fee in order to experience the exuberance of the zombie's bite. This proves to be a great plan, at first, but then… it isn't. While all of this is going on, Jjong-Bi starts to develop an unlikely relationship with a lovely young woman named Hae-Gul (Soo-Kyung Lee).
Zombie For Sale is, for the most part, a comedy and one that works surprisingly well. Zombie movies may have been done to death, pun absolutely intended, over the past decade or so but this film stands as proof that it's still possible to breath new life into a somewhat tired genre. Director Lee Min-Jae does just that with this picture, bringing in unique ideas and elements to the story that help to set his film apart, and adding some interesting cultural quirks that differentiate this picture from so many western walking dead films. There's also a fair bit of social commentary in the film that's quite interesting, it might not seem too obvious at first but if you think about it as it plays out, it's there, just under the surface.
At the same time, there's definitely no shortage of horror movie elements here. The film owes as much to the classic ‘straight horror' films of George Romero and many of the American and European films that followed in the wake of his success as it does to more comedic takes on the sub-genre like Shaun Of The Dead or Zombieland. The last third of the film cements this, as it's here that, while the film hardly throws the comedy to the side, the picture takes on a darker and slightly more serious tone. The shifts in tone work quite well where they could have been jarring, and the film succeeds as a genuinely odd mix of horror, comedy, social satire and romance all rolled into one.
Zombie For Sale features strong production values. It doesn't ever feel like this picture was made with a massive budget, but it never feels like it needs to have been made. What the cast and crew get up there on the screen is effective, there's some pretty nice makeup effects on display and even a decent bit of gore to take in (hey, comedic or not this is still a zombie movie so you'd expect at least a bit of it, right?). The cinematography is more than fine, some interesting camera angles are employed that help keep the audience on their toes and the score is pretty solid as well. Performances are pretty great all around, with Ga-Ram Jung really nailing it as the titular zombie character.
Open minded horror and zombie fans looking for something a little different are encouraged to give his one a shot, it really is a breath of fresh air.
Zombie For Sale arrives on Blu-ray framed at 2.39.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 50GB disc with a healthy bit rate. Shot digitally, there's no print damage, dirt, debris or grain related issues to talk about here. Picture quality is excellent throughout, showing plenty of fine detail, depth and texture. Colors are reproduced very nicely and we get strong black levels as well. The transfer is excellent across the board.
Audio options are offered in 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Stereo options, both in the film's native Korean language. Optional subtitles are offered in English only. Quality of the 5.1 mix is impressive, there's plenty of effective use of the surround channels noticeable throughout playback, with the score and effects work spread out into the rear channels frequently to help build mood. Dialogue stays clean and clear and the track is balanced well from start to finish. No problems to report here at all..
Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring Sam Ashurst and Dan Martin, who point out this film's unique place in the halls of zombie cinema, talk up details of what the different cast and crew members did on the production, their own thoughts on what works in terms of this picture, potential influences, biographical details of the film's director and plenty more.
From there we move on to the first of three featurettes, starting with the thirteen-minute Q&A With Director Lee Min-Jae which was shot at a 2019 screening of the film that took place in Chicago He answers a few questions about the movie and shares some thoughts on the film. Eat Together, Kill Together: The Family In Peril Comedy is a twenty-minute video essay by critic and producer Pierce Conran that does a great job of putting this quirky Korean cinematic trend into context and explaining Zombie For Sale's connections to other entries. A four-minute Making Of piece is fairly promotional in nature but gives us a look at what it was like on set..
Rounding out the extras on the disc are two minute-long behind the scenes segments, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options. As to the packaging, this release comes with a slipcover as well as a reversible cover sleeve and packaged inside the case alongside the disc is a full insert booklet that contains credits for the feature and the Blu-ray release as well as an interesting essay on the picture written by Josh Hurtado.
Zombie For Sale is clever, creative, genuinely funny and occasionally even touching. Arrow has done a fine job bringing this title to Blu-ray with an excellent presentation and a nice selection of extra features. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.