South Korea has proven to be a goldmine of genre film offerings. Between films like Train to Busan and I Saw the Devil, they’ve consistently delivered intense, dramatic, heavy-hitting films that just rip your heart from your chest. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re not going to find it in The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale.
What you will find is a quirky zombie film laced with off-kilter characters, hilarious comedy, and a new shift in direction for the ever-cinematically-present zombie virus. Directed by Lee Min-jae, The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale follows a rather dysfunctional yet productive — if not dishonest — family who runs a gas station/garage on the outskirts of Poongsan. Thanks to an experimental insulin that — when tested on human subjects — has rather adverse effects, the family finds a fresh new zombie on their doorstep and discover that its bite actually has restorative de-aging side effects. Soon, the men in town catch wind of this unconventional boost in virility and line up to “cash in” on this rare opportunity.
The zombified human test subject (Jung Ga-ram) and Hye-gul (Lee Soo-kyung), the daughter of the family, strike up a sweet little love story that is perfectly woven in with the humor of the film. Every encounter is softened with a comedic flush to show that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has all the signs of puppy love without being suffocatingly heavy-handed.
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale is positively charming. Each of the characters have a wealth of personality; Ji-won Uhm in particular plays her strong-willed and very pregnant role with deadpan delivery, and it’s an absolute delight to watch.
There are several sight gags throughout the film that have a great payoff (including one of my personal favorites — the flying side kick — and a perfect little reference to Train to Busan), and the comedic timing is perfection. The situational absurdity combined with the family’s antics make the film — overall — gloriously fun and wildly entertaining.
While there is plenty of zombie violence, there’s never too much carnage. It makes for a really easy watch for even the most hesitant horror viewer. It’s also a nice light meal of a movie; while the zombie genre has deep roots in sociological and cultural commentary, The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale makes its points about class and societal divisions without getting too bogged down in the minutiae. It never feels like it’s preaching a message, it just wants to have fun.
Not only is The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale a wildly charming and deliciously entertaining film, but it’s beautifully shot. Thanks to Lee Min-jae’s excellent direction and the stellar cinematography by Cho Hyoung-rae, the film is blessed with some gorgeously framed, perfectly lit, occasionally-in-slow-motion shots that breathe fresh air into what many consider to be a tired subgenre. There are moments that soar across the screen with beautiful dramatic flair, while others line up a shot in just the right way to land a hit of humor.
At 1hr 52min, the run time can feel a little long. That said, that’s not an outrageous amount of time — especially for Korean cinema — and it does pass with ease. The pacing is so consistent throughout that nothing feels like it’s dragging. A dramatic turn in the third act keeps the action moving along and helps to ensure the story is fresh while indulging in some classic zombie tropes.
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale is a lighthearted and cheeky addition to the oeuvre of zombie films, and one that definitely deserves attention. It throws fresh meat to the lore of the undead that’s light enough to be easily digestible, but keeps enough focus to make a damn fine film. It may be Lee Min-jae’s first feature, but I’m definitely buying what he’s selling.