The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale (South Korea, 2019) [NYAFF 2019]

The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale, is a horror comedy that takes place in a remote South Korean village which becomes the epicenter of a major zombie outbreak with the ‘help’ of an unwitting family.

Lee Min-jae’s film begins with a montage of news coverage of a pharmaceutical company’s illegal human trials for a new drug to treat diabetes. They used homeless people and college students as their subjects and ended up with some very weird results. One of their experiments (Jung Ga-ram) manages to escape and wanders into the village looking for something to eat, but he doesn’t act like your typical Western zombie. He can’t seem to subdue anyone and ends up being chased away by people who assume he is a drunk and pestered by a dog that just won’t give up. The zombie is eventually found hiding in the bathroom of a defunct gas station where he bites Man-deok (Park In-hwan). Afterwards, Man-doek’s family finds the zombie and hides him in the garage. Min-gul (Kim Nam-gil), who has just returned home after being fired from his job, convinces his family that their father will turn into a zombie. However, Man-deok wakes up the next morning younger and healthier than he has been in years. The family ends up profiting from the zombie, selling access to the men of the town, who also get younger and healthier after being bitten. This newfound fountain of youth goes horribly wrong after and the town is eventually crawling with zombies looking for human flesh.

While The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale begins on a serious note, within the first few minutes it takes a more comedic turn when we meet some of the family scamming a couple for auto repairs. Older son Joon-gul (Jung Jae-young) goes along 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). Min-gul looks to profit even further by bringing the zombie to a company for experimental purposes, thinking they have the cure for old age. Over time, though, the family begins to treat the zombie as a family member, with Hae-gul even developing romantic feelings for him. At times, the zombie’s actions don’t seem to make sense, which can get a bit confusing. As the story goes on, the rest of the zombies act as expected, craving flesh and becoming sensitive to light and sound, while the original zombie begins to act more human-like with no real explanation.

The final third of the film plays out well, full of chaos and tension as the family finally pulls it together and escapes, though at this point the country is now in a state of emergency with the government hoping for those who recovered from the virus or those that are immune. This finale, while fun, feel forced as though the writers needed a way to end the movie, but on some level it does work and keeps the comedic feel of the film right to the end. I also enjoyed the fact that there was no CGI and the director was able to get across the fear or a zombie attack without much gore. The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale is a little long and more than one scene could have been edited down, but overall, it’s a fun film for what it is, flaws aside.

The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale is showing at the New York Asian Film Festival 2019 on July 9.