Saturday, February 4, 2012
Horror Film Review
SARS Wars - Bangkok Zombie Crisis (2004): Zombie flick! From Thailand! And it's a comedy! I'll stop shouting now. Oh, yeah...deal with the subtitles. If you're thinking I've discovered another Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead, however, keep right on thinking. What I did discover is a zany, bizarre, and sometimes disturbing take on my favorite horror sub-genre. I suppose now you want me to explain the damned thing. Roger Ebert with a PowerPoint presentation couldn't explain this thing, but I'll give it a go. Get comfortable...
For the opening credits, we have animation that's part Anime, part Scooby-Doo and totally pointless. Cut to a press conference (real, not animated) with a government health minister assuring the nation that the deadly SARS-4 virus that's sweeping the globe has not and will not affect Thailand. A wasp/cockroach thing travels from Africa to southeast Asia (shown with odd animation and sound effects) where, in Bangkok, it stings a man who's headed home to his apartment building. Doesn't take long for him to start spewing white and green goop on fellow residents and then ultimately turn full zombie. He eats a cat. Stay with me, now... He eats a cat, but not the tail. A chronically escaping yet totally harmless python comes along, eats the tail and then, for reasons known only to the mind of the writer who most certainly was goofed up on shrooms and Nyquil, the python transforms into a monster snake the size of a freight train. A monster snake that spits and hisses like a cat. And eats people. Still with me? Hang on...
Liu (Phintusuda Tunphairao), the daughter of a crime boss, gets kidnapped on her way home from school. The kidnappers send a ransom tape to her father who begs Master Thep (Suthep Po-ngam) to rescue her. Master refuses so the father and his goons tickle him until he agrees. You read that right. Tickle torture. Since Master is injured, he calls on his student Khun Krabii (Supakorn Kitsuwon) to save Liu. The kidnappers, of course, are holed up in the zombie apartment building. Once Khun finds Liu, the government quarantines the building and seals it off. Oh, and plants plastic explosives as a last resort. Master shows up to help with the climatic battle against the snake. His weapon? A battery-powered light saber...sort of. The batteries die at the worst possible moment, the monster python kitty swallows him, but Master takes the batteries from a ghetto blaster in the snake's stomach and cuts his way out. And just when it seems all is well, the explosives detonate. They run, know they won't make it so Khun pulls out a remote control and pauses the blast. Yep. It's one of those movies.
Numerous times during this film, the characters make reference to the fact that they're in a movie. This can be amusing but here it's just distracting. Use of comic sound effects when someone is hit or falls down brought to mind the Batman TV show. Also distracting, if not annoying. Now for the disturbing. One of the kidnappers is a transsexual/transvestite. (Spoiler...) Early on, during a fight with Liu in a bathroom, he rips her clothes off. She's thinking rape, he just wants her clothes. Liu accidentally falls out a window, presumably dies, and he takes over her identity. Where he came up with a Mission Impossible mask that fooled Khun, who has fallen in love with Liu, I have no idea. Still with me? Okay. So thinking Liu is actually Liu, Khun loses his virginity to her (although it's really a him, the kidnapper). We find all this out at the end in a series of Anime flashbacks as the dying kidnapper confesses. Khun, as you may imagine, is upset to say the least. But the real Liu survived the fall, hooks up with Khun again, and finds the whole transsexual sex thing funny. She and Master kid him about it as the film ends. Bizarre, eh? I'm telling you...shrooms and Nyquil.
This film could have been awesome. It had all the right ingredients to be another Quarantine or The Horde but with a dash of supernatural swordplay. Sadly, the comedy torpedoed that opportunity. I mean, there's comedy and then there's what we have here...screwball comedy. It simply didn't work for me. Played straight, SARS Wars could have rocked. I've run across many positive critical reviews and its IMDB rating is crazy high. Why? Beats the crap out of me.
Acting: Kitsuwon as Khun is weird. At first, I thought he was supposed to be a robot. Otherwise, the performances are manic, hammy, and perfectly suited for a comedy...not a zombie flick.
Story: Part Quarantine, part Anaconda, part The Crying Game, and all silly.
Direction: There was direction?
Production Values: Thai movies as a rule look good. This one is no different. If I had a complaint, it would be the lighting. A bit too dark.
Gore/FX: Lots of blood, some exploding heads via shotgun, and, of course, the cat. The CGI used for the snake and faux light saber aren't bad.
Scares: You have to ask?
Ending: During the end credits, there are two scenes. One shows a newborn baby chewing the throat out of the health minister. The other shows the headless body of a zombie being interrogated at a police station. Both scenes are played for laughs. I didn't laugh.
Verdict: Should you see SARS Wars? Although it may seem that I hated this film, I will recommend it simply for the novelty and utter weirdness. A much better zombie flick in this same vein is Sun faa sau si (Biozombie) from Hong Kong. I saw it before I started this blog so there's no review, but the fact that I remember it so well should tell you something.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Posted by Nate Dean at 10:01 PM