The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale
A Delightful Zombie Bite
By Casey Lee
Since 2016, South Korean filmmakers seem to have been infected by the zombie fever. After carrying a train load of energized zombies in ‘Train to Busan’ and going medieval in last year's ‘Rampant’, the Korean zombie genre has now entered into comedy with ‘The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale’.
Despite a narration that suggests the typical opening of a zombie outbreak, a zombie finds himself wandering alone on the empty roads of a Korean village, like a reverse of the opening of ‘28 Days Later’. Debuting director Lee Min-Jae quickly sets the tone that the zombies have nothing to bite and that being chased by dogs is the real threat in this zombie movie. Lee, who also co-wrote the screenplay, goes on a comedic route by placing the zombie apocalypse in a sleepy town inhabited mostly by old men who got depressed on their trip to the toilet, gossiping housewives and their lazy husbands, as well as an entire population that has no inkling on what a zombie is (much less have actually seen Train to Busan).
Central alongside the zombie is the titular family; an oddball lot, played by a veteran cast, each with their own idiosyncrasies and divergent motivations that pull them apart day by day, waiting for the perfect opportunity to sever relationships for good. Among them are the elderly patriarch who yearns to go to Hawaii with the ashes of his late wife, the conservative eldest son who wishes for better days but is forced to run scams with his tow truck business at the behest of his pregnant wife, the second son who returns disgraced after losing his cushy job at Seoul, and the youngest daughter who has nothing to look forward to in a town that is devoid of any strapping bachelors. Their awkward interactions and reactions towards the lonely zombie make up a good bit of the first act but they are able to sustain the laughter and comedic rhythm which were directed well by Lee, who also inserted a few references to more recent zombie comedies from the West.
Although the proceedings do gradually decay into typical zombie fare as the virus spreads, thanks to the ingenious scheme by the family to sell the zombie's bite, the plot doesn't lose its steam and keep chugging through engaging beats and turning points. The writers have definitely put much thought into developing a compact zombie tale, mixed with the odd family dynamic and premised around the carefree mentality of rural folk (even when the rest of the world is burning).
Where ‘The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale’ succeeds is through the little spins that it puts on the familiar tropes with a fresh context (because vegetarian zombies is really something storytellers need to explore more of), and that it is not pretentious. That doesn't make it particularly exemplary in the zombie genre as a whole, but it is still enjoyable and entertaining. Kind of make one want to see where the Korean zombie genre will go to next.