The insane proliferation of the zombie apocalypse genre around the world continues … now, not only does every territory have to have its versions of Night of the Living Dead and 28 days later, but it’s important to throw in a local colour take on Sean of the Dead too. This Hong Kong movie features characters called Shan and Shuan, but its Sean figure is Lone (Michael Ning), a shambling slacker who hasn’t outgrown his dreams of being an anime-style super-warrior and has a hyperactive best friend Yeung (Louis Cheung-kai) who encourages him and even sets the pace in geekery.
A prologue establishes that an evil supernatural force is loose on the island, turning randoms into zombies, but the film then takes a good half hour to catch up on an insane tangle of soap opera plotting and an array of sad sack lovelorn folks … Lone and Yeung, whose mundane gig is dressing up as pandas as mascots in a shopping centre, live with Lone’s crippled aunt Shan (Carrie Ng), a onetime Cantonese opera star whose small opera school is being closed down by rapacious estate agents – who, in what I suspect is a gag HK residents will hoot at, are shown to be worse than zombies … deep in the backstory Shan was injured in a car accident and Wing (Alex Man), Lone’s estranged father, went to prison, only now he’s out and hoping to reconnect with his sullen son and onetime crush, even though Shan is now being courted by a timid take-out guy who has delivered nearly 5000 heart-shaped meals to her … and both heroes have crushes on kickass chicks who really ought to get more to do in the film than be edged out by male self-pity, Lone is hung up on martial artist Shuan (Venus Wong), who is disconsolate and in bridal dress during the zombie outbreak because she’s been jilted at the altar, while Yeung continually tries to flirt with Shan’s niece Yit (Cherry Ngan Cheuk-ling), who is making a documentary about the foulup pals when she isn’t haring off with mystic weapons to fight monsters on behalf of a covert organisation.
When the monsters attack, director Alan Lo stages the usual chases, gore gags, shrill arguments and sieges, seemingly trying for comic one-upmanship on Train to Busan or [REC]3 as emotional little scenes are crammed between rock-scored knockabout. It’s mostly to the cast’s credit that the film does manage to work up some pathos, especially as the shambling Wing gets to mumble sincere apologies to the son who resents him before going out in a ridiculous blaze of glory that involves him surrendering to one curse (zombification) in order to be proof against the other (demon eggs that zap people’s heads turning them into smoking skulls). Given the sheer volume of zombie movies about, and the fact that pretty much everything that can be done with the beasts has been (though there’s a modestly new bit with a full-on zombie and a struggling-to-be-human zombie having a fight), it’s probably a good thing that this goes so far into left field for its big bad. Those evil easter eggs are laid by a big demon who looks like – and, indeed, is – a square-bodied chicken mascot, whose secret identity leads to a part-animated, part-dialogue confrontation climax that might lose the plot but at least isn’t like anything you’ve seen before.
Aside from the estate agent jokes – no one cares when the heroes leave a whole pack of them to be eaten – there are a few other locale-specific elements, including scenes set in a tunnel that has particular meaning for father and son and cultural business about Cantonese opera. Though uproarious fun, it has a melancholy streak. There’s an element of shambles, and it staggers on a reel or so beyond the point when it needs to stop … but it’s still a value-for-money essay in fantastical nonsense. Scripted by Nick Cheuk, Nero Ng, Chi Hoi Pang.