Fantasia 2019 Review: THE ODD FAMILY: ZOMBIE ON SALE, A Story Of Gore And Greed In A Korean Town
What would you do if you stumbles across the fountain of youth, or better yet, a fountain of youth stumbled across you? In LEE Min-jae's The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale, the answer is clear, you monetize! The issue here is that the fountain of youth isn't an actual fountain, but a half-conscious undead ghoul whose bite provides more than a little get-up-and-go to the elderly citizens of remote Poongsan village.
The Park family discovers this creature's powers when he bites their patriarch just as they are in the middle of a family crisis. Grandpa Man-duk gets his head gnawed on, leading to a renewed vigor and a brand new lease on life. Meanwhile, his recently unemployed son Mig-gul (KIM Man-gil) has just turned up at their rural home after being ousted from his big city job, and his son Jun-gul (JEONG Jae-young) and quiet but feisty daughter Hye-gul (LEE Soo-kyung) are trying to get the family petrol station working again to help support the impending birth of Jun-gul's child from his pragmatic and prone-to-violence wife, Nam-joo (UHM Ji-won).
Their undead meal ticket, nicknamed Zzong-bie or Jjong-bi (JOONG Ga-ram), turns out to have more of a taste for cabbage than flesh, though with a bit of prodding he manages to turn their fortunes around. When every man over the age of forty shows up at their doorstep looking for a shot (bite) in the arm to get their mojo back, the PARK family becomes local heroes, and everything seems to be coming up roses, until it isn't...
No good deed goes unpunished, and what looks like a win-win situation turns out to be a bit more complicated that expected when Zzong-bie's bites have a more complex effect than anyone was ready for. Familial bonds are strained, then strengthened when the PARKs have to try and save themselves from the monsters they created, all the while attempting to solve interpersonal relationships and bridge gaps decades in the making in the name of humanity.
The Odd Family is a very funny riff on the zombie film genre, taking bits and pieces from the best of the genre and adding its own very particular spices to a well-worn formula. Traces of zombie survival horrors like Train to Busan, 28 Days Later, and I Am A Hero are pretty obvious in The Odd Family, though this film is far funnier than any of those without sacrificing tension. By focusing on the family relationships with the outbreak in the background, the film is able to create a genuinely engaging emotional core around the PARKs that helps keep the audience involved in the storytelling.
All that being said, The Odd Family isn't subtle in the least, nor does it have any designs to be. Korean horror tends to work at one extreme or the other; either super serious and dour, like A Tale of Two Sisters, or relentlessly silly, as in KIM Jee-woon's The Quiet Family. The Odd Family certainly leans toward the latter, with surprising turns toward sincerity in the third act that help keep the audience engaged when things go completely ape-shit crazy.
A blast of fresh air in a genre that seems as though it's gone stale, The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale packs plenty of action and laughs into its 110 minutes. Running gags, plenty of clever wordplay, and a cast filled with characters willing to do anything for a laugh make this zom-com well worth checking out, especially for fans of the genre who think they've seen everything. I've seen a million zombie films, and The Odd Family still managed to surprise me several times, and that's no easy feat. This film is definitely worth checking out if it stumbles through your town.