They drank from a soda tainted with a secret government chemical and now they’re the undead… and they’re going to the mall! Wilson Yip’s delightfully absurd horror comedy Bio Zombie lumbers its way to Blu-ray thanks to Vinegar Syndrome with a solid A/V presentation and a nice selection of bonus features. Recommended
Woody Invincible (Jordan Chan) and his pal Crazy Bee (Sam Lee) are a pair of shiftless aimless movie bootleggers selling crappy VCD flicks out of a mall kiosk. Elsewhere, government agents meet to unveil their new super secret bioweapon that turns people into zombies - but their test subject breaks loose, killing all but one of the agents. When returning from picking up their boss’ car, Woody and Crazy hit the surviving agent carrying the only sample in a soda bottle. Thinking the wounded man needs a drink they give it to him, toss him into the trunk of the car, and return to the mall. Little did they know they have accidentally brought the plague of the undead back with them!
Do you remember the before times of the long, long ago when Zombie movies and shows weren’t all that popular? Think back to before The Last of Us and The Walking Dead overtook television screens. Before Zach Snyder and James Gunn gave us a genuinely good remake of Dawn of the Dead, before Shaun of the Dead, there was a time when zombies just weren’t popular. They were video rental store fodder for cheap direct-to-tape operations to score a few bucks and or give rising talent a chance to show the world what they could do. That’s right about where Wilson Yip’s Bio Zombie falls in line. It’s a low-budget flick, and didn’t get a lot of traction when first released, but it showcases Yip’s penchant for energetic camera work and entertaining characters; something he’d carry over into his Ip Man films.
The film is absolutely absurd - but it’s a fun run. Our zombies being resurrected from tainted soda pop is a fun twist on an old gag. It’s not radiation from a crashed satellite returning from Venus and it isn’t caused by a leak from a misplaced government canister and it isn't voodoo. It’s innocent enough to be plausible but goofy enough to inject the film with some humor.
On the scale of things, this film is probably closer to the Shaun of the Dead side of the zombie spectrum. There are some good horror gags and some nice gore effects but it’s also got a strong tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. I loved that before the zombies get down to eating people they first need to find the thing they love the most - even if it's their cell phone! Not to say the film is void of the gnarly bits one wants and needs in a Zombie flick, Bio Zombie just takes some fun detours to get there.
All in all, not the greatest Zombie film of all time, but it’s a pretty wild little flick. It’s a little slow going at first but when it picks up, it’s a heck of a ride. I first saw this on tape in college so it’d been the better side of twenty years since my last viewing. It’s nice to see that it still holds up. I may not have laughed as much as I did back in the day, but Bio Zombie is a good time and a worthy entry in the growing collection of films featuring the walking (sometimes talking) undead.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Vinegar Syndrome infects U.S. domestic markets with the first release of Bio Zombie on Blu-ray. Pressed on a Region Free BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a clear case with reversible insert artwork and an identical slipcover. If you were a Vinegar Syndrome annual subscriber you also picked up a really slick slipcase! The disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. Also included is a booklet featuring photos and images from the film with critical essays.
For this release of Bio Zombie fans can chew on a decent 1.85:1 1080p transfer. Per the description on the artwork, this came from a supplied master that Vinegar Syndrome apparently did some additional work on - to what end that all means, I don’t know. Compared to some other import titles from China, this is about par for the course. The image can facilitate from looking like a well-polished film restoration with robust details to looking like it was a low-grade digital transfer with any number of cooked-in anomalies. Overall details are strong, especially for close-ups giving you plenty of opportunity to absorb those gnarly zombie effects. Colors are vivid with some healthy primaries. Black levels and contrast can be a bit iffy. Blacks and whites can be a bit muddy in places limiting the visual impact and sense of depth, other areas can look fresh and perfect. But that can switch from one shot to the next, really, so it’s difficult to square a specific example. All in all not bad. Not going to blow your hair back but it’s certainly watchable and gets the job done.
This release of Bio Zombie lumbers in with an impressive DTS-HD MA 2.0 Cantonese audio track with English subtitles. There isn’t an English Dub option, but a new Mandarin dub is also available, however, I didn’t really give that a listen since it’s not technically the original language mix. Dialog is clean and clear throughout without issue. Sound effects and music cues work well giving a nice active soundscape for the film to work with. As the film picks up pace in the last half the mix gets more active and urgent. Without any real issues to speak of this is a clean auditory experience for this little flick.
As per any decent Vinegar Syndrome release, it doesn’t skimp on the extras. There’s not a metric tonne of content here, but what we get is pretty good. First up, there’s a good commentary track with Film Historian Frank Djeng that’s well worth the listen if you’re so inclined. After that, we get an interview with Wilson Yip, a fun video essay by Chris O’Neill, and an alternate ending that is a bit different but the original ending is still stronger
Wilson Yip stretched every penny for Bio Zombie but it’s a worthy effort. Stylish and entertaining, the film offers up an entertaining spin on the undead calling back to the hits that defined the Zombie genre. With fun performances and good gore effects, Bio Zombie is a winner. Vinegar Syndrome delivers the film’s first U.S. Blu-ray with an overall strong video transfer, a solid audio track to enjoy, and some brief but worthwhile bonus features to pick through. If you’re a zombie movie fan, Bio Zombie is a good one for the collection. Recommended