Seen in Jeonju

Neighbor Zombie (2009)

6th June 2010

lposter041717-k1Back in February, I was disappointed when the movie Neighbor Zombie failed to open in Jeonju. I had been looking forward to it. It is not often that Korean directors tackle the sub-genre of zombie films. The trailers of this movie made it look like a mixture of comedy and horror as Seoul dealt with a zombie plague. It sounded interesting to me even though this topic has been filmed frequently since the classic Night of the Living Dead. Trailers also showed the zombies as the modern, fast moving, shouting type ala 28 Days Later or the remakes of the Living Dead films. I was not really looking forward to that. I prefer my zombies slow moving and groaning. Maybe they are not as dangerous, but as a child watching those movies on tv, I was terrified by the inexorable doom inching closer and closer–and  I think a good horror movie is able to build slowly on the feeling in terror instead of relying on things suddenly jumping out at the viewer.  BUT as it turns out, I would be disappointed again.  Neighbor Zombie is not actually a horror movie at all.  Instead, it deals with social problems using zombies as metaphors.  Issues dealt with in the film include Alzheimers vs Filial Duty, Ex-Convicts re-entering society, agrophobia and so on for a total of 6 short stories contributed by 4 directors.

The best of these, in my opinion is the story of a young woman who is taking care of her mother aged mother suffering from zombism although it is clearly meant to represent Alzheimers. The zombie-mother does not usually recognize her daughter and would probably devour her if she could. The daughter keeps the mother securely chained and supplies fresh meat paste to her through a bottle made from her own fingers–until a policeman assigned to killing zombies comes to her door and throws a wrench in the whole process.

The other one I liked took place after a cure was found. The former zombies live with nightmare like memories of what they had done when they were attacking and eating people. Their skin is still scarred and pale, so they are easy to recognize as former zombies and as such find themselves unable to get jobs.  The also have to deal with people hating them for what they had done against their will.  It is an interesting idea that I had not seen dealt with in any zombie film that had attempted to cure its zombies and return their humanity.

But on the whole, I did not like the collection.  For one thing, the zombies were not consistant.  In one episode, the zombies are raving animals willing to eat their own feet while in another they are shown as talking, be able to use the phone and having the will to resist their flesh cravings. The other big problem was budget.  I do not mind low-budget films–I do not need flashy special effects. But the effort by the make-up people was lackluster and …well…pitiful.  White powder does not make a zombie—or if you are going to make someone’s face pale, make sure you take into account the neck as well.  

Neighbor Zombie is not yet on DVD.  If you are looking for a horror film, avoid it. If you are looking for a social commentary film, there are better ones available though you might enjoy the unique narrative style zombies bring to social issues.

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