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Bio-Zombie (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Bio-Zombie (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: February 14th, 2023.
    Director: Wilson Yip
    Cast: Jordan Chan, Sam Lee, Emotion Cheung, Angela Tong, Suk-Mui Tam, Yiu-Cheung Lai, Tat-Wah Lok, Frankie Chan
    Year: 1998
    Purchase From Amazon

    Bio-Zombie – Movie Review:

    Essentially Wilson Yip’s take on Dawn Of The Dead by way of Mallrats, 1998’s Bio-Zombie follows the exploits of two young men who run a VCD shop in the New Trend Plaza shopping mall in Hong Kong. Named Woody Invincible (Jordan Chan) and Bee (Sam Lee), they’re more interested in posing as bad-ass types and picking up pretty girls than running their business, but in their spare time they do run menial missions for a local gangster from time to time.

    Their latest job for the boss is to pick up his car from a mechanic on the other side of town. They do as asked and on the way back run into a man standing in the middle of a remote road. Rather than call the cops and try to do the right thing, they instead decide to bring the body back to the mall and hide it in the trunk of the car until they can figure out what to do with it. At the same time, they’re trying to pick up lovely Jelly (Suk-Yin Lai) and her equally lovely friend Rolls (Angela Tong) all while finding time to pick on Loi (Emotion Chung from The Demon's Baby), the nerdy guy who works at the nearby sushi spot.

    What none of them realize is that the man they ran over is actually infected with a bio-weapon developed by some nefarious Middle Eastern types that have smuggled some of said bio-weapon into Hong Kong, hidden away in some innocent enough looking Lucozade bottles. As you’d expect, the man, who has ingested some of the drink, turns into a full on zombie and bites a few other people and before you know it, shoppers, gangsters and football players alike are all in mortal danger of being bitten and infected – will Woody and Bee be able to get their act together in time to save the day?

    Bio-Zombie takes its sweet time getting moving, spending more time on the juvenile antics of the movie’s semi-protagonists than much else. We spend too much time with their rivalry with Loi and their attempts to pick up Jelly and/or Rolls for the movie’s own good, with the zombie story lingering pretty much entirely in the background until the final third of the film. At this point, things pick up quite nicely, bringing in the chaos and carnage you’d expect from a zombie movie with a few interesting, albeit sometimes somewhat dated, quirks and tricks, bringing things to a genuinely satisfying conclusion with a pretty solid ending.

    The performances work pretty well, each of the main actors cast well in their respective roles. Chan and Lee can be amusing in their smugness, playing characters who clearly think much more of themselves than everyone around them does. This leads to some moments of effective humor in the movie’s slower parts, which is welcome. Angela Tong and Suk-Yin Lai don’t get loads of character development here but they look good and scream well. Their characters aren’t much more than eye candy but that’s clearly intentional and they handle the roles fine. Emotion Chung actually manages to create one of the rare sympathetic characters in the film pretty effectively, though going into detail about how and why that happens would lead us into spoiler territory.

    Bio-Zombie – Blu-ray Review:

    Bio-Zombie arrives on a 50GB region free Blu-ray disc with the feature presented in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken and using 30.9GBs of space. Taken from a “studio supplied master with additional restoration performed by VS,” the transfer here looks really good. Colors are replicated really nicely, the primaries really pop, while skin tones and black levels look consistent throughout. Detail is vastly improved over past DVD editions and there are no problems with any compression issues, noise reduction or edge enhancement to note.

    Audio options for the feature are provided in the original Cantonese mix in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track with optional English and English SDH subtitle options provided. Audio quality is solid. There are no problems with any hiss, distortion of sibilance and the track is properly balanced throughout. The score sounds quite strong and the sound effects used throughout the movie are appropriately punchy, without ever burying the performers in the mix. The Mandarin dub is also included, again in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 format and it also sounds very good.

    Regarding the English dub that is out there, Vinegar Syndrome’s website has the following disclaimer on it:

    “Please note: our edition of Bio Zombie is presented with its original Cantonese language track as well as its official Mandarin dub. While we are aware than an English dub was created by a former US distributor, it was not sanctioned, supervised, or approved by the filmmakers and presents a highly inaccurate translation and poor mix.”

    Extras include a new commentary track with film historian Frank Djeng, who talks about the influence of Dawn Of The Dead and games like Resident Evil, how the title translates into English and the pun in the original Chinese title, the film's release history, details on some of the humor used throughout the movie, where the movie plays by clichéd genre tropes and where it doesn't, details on the different cast and crew that worked on the picture, the use of music in the film, the different character arcs that play out and plenty more.

    Bio Zombie is an interview with co-writer/director Wilson Yip by Frédéric Ambroisine running nineteen minutes. Yip speaks about how this was literally the first zombie movie made in Hong Kong, how he was himself a fan of the genre, why he made the movie, how the movie reflects the Hong Kong of the late nineties, where he got some of the ideas for the movie from, working with the different cast members in the picture, why the movie gets dark in spots, how the makeup effects were the hardest part of the movie, the mall location where most of the film takes place and how much he appreciates some of the people that he worked with on the project.

    Video Games, Contaminated Lucozade And Human Sushi is a second video essay, this one from film historian Chris O’Neill. This thirteen minute piece explores the influence of zombie movies, American and otherwise, that came before this one before then going on to explore what makes Bio-Zombie stand out from the pack, the film's brazen sense of humor, the different characters that populate the movie, the quality of the performances in the movie, the history of the Lucozade drink and how the movie effectively and completely changes gears as it moves towards the finish line.

    The disc also includes an (inferior) alternate ending, menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging goes, Vinegar Syndrome offers this release with a nice embossed slipcover limited to 5,000 pieces and designed by Robert Sammelin if purchased directly from their website, as well as with some cool reversible cover sleeve art. Reversible cover sleeve artwork is also provided. This disc also includes, inside the keepcase along with the Blu-ray disc, an insert booklet containing an essay by author Rod Lott called ‘Going To The Maul: Shopping And Chopping With Hong Kong’s Bio-Zombie’ and a second essay by film programmer / writer Ariel Esteban Cayer called ‘At The Arcade’ which is a photo essay inspired by the film.

    Bio-Zombie - The Final Word:

    Bio-Zombie does take a while to hit its stride but once it does proves to be a pretty entertaining mix of horror and comedy with some fun performances and a strong ending that makes up for a weaker start. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray edition looks and sounds very good and features a pretty strong assortment of supplements, making this one that the film’s fan base will want to check out.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Bio-Zombie Blu-ray screen caps!

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