Fantasia 2019 Dispatch: ‘The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale’ and ‘8’
The Odd Family Zombie On Sale
South Korea cinema is known for producing some of the best serial killer thrillers this century, but as of late, Korean cinema is having a bit of a zombie craze. It started with the thrillingly unique Train to Busan and ever since the country has produced several more walking dead pictures including Seoul Station (the animated prequel to Train to Busan), the swashbuckling Rampant and the three-part anthology Doomsday Book. The debut feature from Lee Min-jae, The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale is the newest entry in the genre and like those films, it doesn’t disappoint.
Taking place in a remote South Korean village, the small town becomes the epicenter of a major zombie outbreak no thanks to a pharmaceutical company’s illegal human testing of a new drug to treat diabetes. A lot happens in Lee Min-jae’s film but what sets it apart from the other countless zombie movies is a subplot involving a family who winds up profiting from the outbreak. After a runaway zombie bites Man-deok (Park In-hwan) he’s convinced he doesn’t have much time to live but when he wakes up the next morning younger and healthier, he and his family believe they’ve found a cure for old age and begin selling his blood (so to speak) to the aging men in the community. It takes an odd family to use zombies in order to start a family business, but I guess the zombie apocalypse makes desperate people do desperate things.
The Odd Family really does benefit from its cast including eldest son Joon-gul (Jung Jae-young from Castaway on the Moon) who helps with his father’s money-making scheme in order to support his pregnant wife Nam-joo (Uhm Ji-won) and younger sister Hae-gul (Lee Soo-kyung) who has bigger aspirations and looks to profit even further by selling their newfound fountain of youth to a large corporation. Their back and forth banter and weird antics of the eccentric family help pile on the laughs and makes the movie feel fresh despite recycling ideas we’ve seen time and time again.
When describing the film, a good comparison would be Shinchiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead, a movie that proved a perfect antidote to zombie fatigue. While not as original, The Odd Family shows its zombie movie credentials with some impressive gory makeup and effects – and great work from the ensemble cast, human and otherwise. Odd Family is not by any stretch of the imagination groundbreaking but it is a fresh, enjoyable, creative take on the oversaturated subgenre and exhibits some nice directorial flourishes, most notably a scene involving some fireworks and a showdown at the local gas station.
Horror comedies are usually hit-or-miss affairs, but I was surprised when I noticed some rather negative reviews online since I really did enjoy this film. The Odd Family: Zombie for Sale is a bloody fun satire about family values and how one family’s money-hungry entrepreneurship puts everyone in danger and nearly leads to the end of the world. Admittedly when we find our way to the mass-infection/state of emergency scenario, the film loses a bit of the sheen and flare found in its earlier scenes but it does make up for this with a rather satisfying conclusion.
For a movie about the undead, The Odd Family: Zombie for Sale is certainly lively and recommended for fans of the genre, especially those who prefer laughs over scares.
- Ricky D
Harold Holscher’s 8 seemed to be the talk of Fantasia and was promoted heavily before the event. It was also one of the very first movies to be sold out, making it difficult to catch. This movie had hype written all over it, especially since the previous year, Five Fingers for Marseilles (another South African film), left a big impact on the fest. With this amount of hype and attention, one would think this supernatural horror movie, supposedly based on folklore, would be something great. Instead, 8 is just a serviceable horror film, but nothing to write home about.
A man, his wife, and their niece, move into his grandfather’s old farmland. It’s a nice place, a little creepy and requires a lot of work to make properly livable – but with enough elbow grease, it may be a place to call home. The farm is isolated from civilization. The first person they meet is an old farmhand, by the name of Lazarus, who trespasses on their property. He mentions he used to work on the land, and would like to stay. Though they don’t trust him at first, they let him take shelter in the shed. They are not wrong in their mistrust however, since he has bad omen written all over him. In addition, the leather bag he carries with him doesn’t bode well. The only one who seems to not fear him is the young girl Mary who has a fascination with bugs and death, and since he tells her stories about life, death, she decides she trusts the stranger.
There really isn’t anything negative to say about the movie except, I expected more. With all the hype behind it, it should have been layered, with a focus on South African folk-lore, and the risks and rewards when dealing with supernatural entities. Instead, it is a simple, albeit visually beautiful film. It’s also very well shot and paced, ensuring that no scene is wasted. But, sometimes those scenes repeat themselves, and never take the plunge to dive deeper into the mythos. Besides the cinematography, the best part of 8 is Lazarus, played by Tshamano Sebe. His particular cadence is soothing but powerful, and his range of emotions is on par for a serious drama instead of a simple horror film. 8 is by no means a bad movie, but doesn’t offer much to discuss beyond its well-executed premise, and the hype that made it a must-see movie at this festival. (David Harris)