Bio Zombie (1998)

Directed by: Wilson Yip
Written by: Wilson Yip, Matt Chow & So Man Sing
Producer: Joe Ma
Starring: Jordan Chan, Sam Lee, Emotion Cheung, Angela Tong & Wayne Lai

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I think it was with this movie that the director Wilson Yip got a bit of a breakthrough in the industry. It also marked the first of, to date, three collaborations between him, screenwriter Matt Chow and producer Joe Ma. The trio also worked together on the Wilson Yip directed movies Bullets Over Summer & Juliet In Love. Unfortunately Bio Zombie is a film with many weaknesses and some minor brilliant touches.

Woddy (Jordan Chan from Big Bullet) and Bee (Sam Lee from Skyline Cruisers) plays two pirate vcd-sellers that late one night accidentally hits a man with their boss's car. With him, the man has a mystic bio chemical liquid that he, in pain, asks to have a zip of. Shortly after the man passes away and Woddy & Bee leave him in the trunk and drives back to the mall where they work. In the trunk however the man is rapidly turning into a flesheasting zombie and soon a night of terror begins...

The first half can almost be described as extremely boring. The actors almost scream out their dialogue (sorry I can't describe it any other way) but maybe they did that to compensate for the, I'm sorry to say, bad and flat dialogue. The attempts to comedy doesn't work at all and actors Jordan Chan and Sam Lee does not have very much chemistry between them. Their scenes during this part of the film are plain bad but maybe these scenes work better if you're a Cantonese speaker, but I somehow doubt that.

Things get a bit better during the second half of the movie where we get all the zombie action. It's here that Yip lets loose some of his trademark creativity in terms of camera angles and direction. Some highlights include the scene where the movie uses game symbols from House of the Dead and some of the killings are fairly cool. But even here some of the zombieaction falls flat and I felt the film dragged during some of these segments.

This was 1998 and Yip was probably still experimenting (and learning to make movies) with lightning and camera movement. He decides to have a lot more steady and shaky cam that is really necessary and the green colour scheme the movie employs doesn't really work. In later movies Yip has learned a whole lot more when it comes to combining his kind of direction and his choice of cinematography to better effect.

In a zombie movie you don't really need a huge amount of character development but Yip and Chow do try to infuse some depth into them. Sadly it doesn't feel right in tone with the rest of the picture. I don't really mind tone changes in a movie but here it feels conflicting. They should've gone with the more serious and grim tone, that is present during the last third, throughout the entire movie. That would've made a more interesting experience in my opinion..

Out of the actors I can really only say some good things about Jordan Chan. His acting is really off in the comedic parts. Jordan has the kind of face and charisma that seems more suited for action and drama roles and we do get glimpses of that during the actionbits. They're far and between though and all in all he's average in this movie. Sam Lee on the other hand is as annoying as ever. Maybe the Hong Kong movie audience likes him when he's shouting and doing funny faces, but for this Swede it just feels like bad acting. Sam has proven that if he calms down he can be a good actor and he showed restraint in 2002, something I hope to see more of in his future roles.

In the end, what we have is a movie I really wanted to love but it's only worth one viewing really. Fans of Wilson Yip should check it out to see glimpses of what would be seen in his later movies. I think he's at his best when he does small character dramas but it's VERY evident that he likes to try out different genres. It does seem that a lot of people do like Bio Zombie but I can't see that anyone would enjoy anything but the second half.

The DVD:

Mei Ah's dvd presents the movie in it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and it looked good. The image was quite clean and sharp for the most part.

Sound is presented in a decent sounding Dolby Digital 2.0. The Cantonese track does it's job considering it's 2.0 and I heard no obvious problems regarding it's presentation. A Mandarin dub is also included.

The English subtitles are of normal Mei Ah quality. They're easy to read and contain the usual spelling error or two. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

The main extra was quite a surprise. It comes in the form of an alternate ending to the movie and it's presented in widescreen and optional English subtitles. It varies slightly from the already fairly good ending but I'm glad they scrapped this one. It's bad and a cheap way to end the movie. Nice to see that kind of feature on a HK dvd though. The theatrical trailer as well as trailers for Rumble Ages & Nude Fear are also on the disc.

Have to give a big boo for Mei Ah's extremely stupid and hard-to-navigate menu system. It seemed like this was only part of some early releases because I've only seen it on one other title, which was Chinese Erotic Ghost Story (...don't ask...).

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson

Thanks to Martin for providing the screen captures.