Cute zombie meets sinister humans

The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale stars (both right) Jung Ga-ram as a harmless zombie and Lee Soo-kyung, who takes a liking to him.
The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale stars (both right) Jung Ga-ram as a harmless zombie and Lee Soo-kyung, who takes a liking to him.PHOTO: CLOVER FILMS

Scarcely has one zombie movie been laid to rest and then another shuffles along.

As opposed to the ghoulish monsters of television series The Walking Dead (2010 to present) or South Korean hit film Train To Busan (2016), the recent trend seems to be adorable zombies. There was a shirtless Nathan Hartono in local flick When Ghost Meets Zombie (2019), and now there is rising South Korean actor Jung Ga-ram (4th Place, 2016) as a cute member of the undead - even before he gets a makeover which leaves him looking like a glossy K-popster.

True, Zzongbie does bite Park elder. But that was because he was being browbeaten by the man. Mostly, he comes across as harmless, getting bullied by children and chased by a dog. Instead of human flesh, he hankers for heads of cabbage liberally doused with ketchup.

In a sly role reversal, the Park family seems more sinister, like a Korean version of hillbilly rednecks. Joon-gul and his heavily pregnant wife operate a scam - causing an unsuspecting passing car to crash and then charging an arm and a leg for repairs - while Min-gul connives to get rich quick anyway he can.

The movie takes place in a world like ours, in which zombies are part of pop culture. This means that writer-director Lee Min-jae gets to revisit tropes such as the creatures being sensitive to light and sound - a fact duly noted by Min-gul in a survival guide he draws up - even as Zzongbie is far from typical.

By the apocalyptic final act, the ensemble cast has made you care about the fates of their characters - from Joon-gul, a devoted family man beneath his scruffy exterior played by veteran actor Jung Jae-young (Confession Of Murder, 2012) to Zzongbie and Hae-gul, who develop a tentative and sweet romance.



    110 minutes/Opens today/3 Stars

    The story: A zombie (Jung Ga-ram), created as a result of illegal human trials by a pharmaceutical company, makes his way to a nearby isolated village. He unwittingly bites the Park patriarch (Park In-hwan) - who becomes younger and more virile as a result. His sons Joon-gul (Jung Jae-young) and Min-gul (Kim Nam-gil) soon turn this into a roaring business serving the men in the area. Meanwhile, his daughter Hae-gul (Lee Soo-kyung) takes a shine to the strange young man, whom she christens Zzongbie.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline 'Cute zombie meets sinister humans'. Subscribe