aka The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale; Strange Family
South Korea. 2019.
Director – Lee Min-jae, Screenplay – Jung Seo-in & Lee Min-jae, Producers – Eum Zoo-young & Jang Jin-seung, Photography – Cho Hyoung-rae, Music – Hwang Sang-jun. Production Company – Cinezoo/Oscar 10 Studio.
Jung Jae-young (Park Joon-gul), Kim Nam-gil (Park Min-gul), Uhm Ji-won (Park Nam-joo), Jung Ga-ram (Jjong-bi), Lee Soo-kyung (Park Hae-gul), Park In-hwan (Park Man-deok), Shin Jung-geun (Chief Oh), Oh Eui-shik (Officer Choi), Jeon Bae-su (Officer Park)
The Park family run a garage in the small countryside town of Pangsan. One day a zombie stumbles across the field and bites the grandfather Man-deok. The others chain the zombie up in the shed. The daughter Hae-gul takes a liking to the zombie and names it Jjong-bi. After being bitten, Man-deok feels rejuvenated and young again. When all the elderly of the village become amazed at this, the family decide to charge them money to have Jjong-bi bite them. However, Man-deok takes all the earnings and heads off to Hawaii. The rest of the villagers then queue up outside the garage wanting to be bitten too. However, this serves to turn them into zombies and soon the Park family are fleeing from a full-blown zombie outbreak.
South Korean Cinema discovered the horror film in the late 1990s/early 2000s and produced some robust entries in the Asian Horror cycle. On the other hand, the South Korean Zombie Film is something that (as far as I am aware) only began in the late 2010s with Train to Busan (2016), which has produced a number of spinoffs with Seoul Station (2016) and Peninsula (2020). There was also the period zombie film Rampant (2018) and following Zombie for Sale the modest hit of #Alive (2020) and the tv series Kingdom (2019- ), Zombie Detective (2020), All of Us Are Dead (2021- ) and Happiness (2021- )..
On the other hand, Zombie for Sale is an entry that comes at almost complete remove from Train to Busan and #Alive and is largely construed as a comedy. For the first half of the film at least, Lee Min-jae dispenses with flesh-eating hordes and gives us its single zombie who is portrayed as more of a comic innocent. There’s even a cute little love story that goes on between the zombie and the daughter of the family Lee Soo-kyung.
The amusement that comes is when it is discovered that the grandfather has rejuvenated after being bitten – the rather hilarious image of a line of seniors lined up inside a toilet bathroom to watch Park In-hwan take a piss and awwwing in amazement that he can do so without difficulty. Then come the complications as the family start trying to exploit the discovery – getting people to pay to line-up and stick their arm through a hole in the shed to be bitten. However, the mother (Kam Nam-gil) has pulled the zombie’s teeth out (the reasons for which I was never entirely clear about) and so they have to compensate by placing the false teeth from one of the seniors in the zombie’s mouth. The zombie has demonstrated a preference for eating cabbages so they have to encourage him to bite into the offered arms by squirting ketchup onto them.
The latter half of the film becomes a more standard zombie apocalypse. The rejuvenation scam and cute zombie romance is sidelined somewhat and what we get is an outbreak with the townspeople being infected and going amok. Lee Min-jae marshals the various complications with a series of appealing comic twists and turns. In the midst of this, there are some delightful touches – the zombies all awed by the detonation of the fireworks, or simply the image of Jung Ga-ram placing his body as a shield to protect Lee Soo-kyung from being devoured by the zombie horde.
Zombie for Sale was a directorial debut for Lee Min-jae.