The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale (DIR. Lee Min-jae)
The zombie genre has always managed to survive because zombies, as a monster, are wholly dependent on the zeitgeist of the time. Since they are brainless creatures, their existence can generally be justified by the anxieties of the time (military industrial complex, consumerism, conformity, racism, etc.). While that is an advantage to sub-genre, most zombie films follow the same template. The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale is no different.
As a result of a major pharmaceutical company’s illegal experiments, a single zombie finds his way into a small Korean town. After the immediate fear, it becomes apparent that this zombie has the power to make the townspeople healthier. Of course, movie goers know what eventually happens when a zombie bites someone. This is the general set-up which takes the film through a variety of sequences without ever seeming to do anything too unique.
And therein lies the problem. The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale is a fascinating look at the zombie mythos but, instead of taking some risks, filmmaker Lee Min-jae is happy to stick to the tried-and-true – incorporating a lot of corny comedy in the first two acts to set up for the generic zombie invasion in the third. This is not to say that the film is a complete failure, or that the director’s creative choices are somehow wrong. But, a more nuanced, riskier approach could have led to a new masterpiece.
What we have now is the usual “same old stuff” which, I suppose, will still work for some undead diehards.
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale screens at Toronto After Dark on Saturday, October 19 at 6:15 pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
Witches in the Woods (DIR. Jordan Barker)
When a car full of people drive down the road towards a destination, the understanding is that viewers are expected to want at least some of them to survive. So, is a film a failure when you want everyone in the car dead by the end of the first act?
Jordan Barker’s Witches in the Woods seems intent on answering that question; giving movie goers a bunch of almost immediately unlikeable characters, slowly turning up their negative characteristics, and having them all turn on each other by the end of the first act. This isn’t to say that a film needs likeable characters to succeed, but one as simplistic as this thriller certainly does.
A car full of young people heading to a snowboarding trip find themselves lost in the middle of snowy nowhere – a place which also happens to have once been the location of a lesser known witch trial. As the temperature begins to fall and tensions begin to rise, everyone in the car decides this is the perfect opportunity to raise old feuds. They take turns leaving the car in anger, which just so happens to be the prime time for vengeful spirits to rise.
There are some effective moments, but they’re mostly lifted from better films. Towards the third act, the otherwise predictable filmmaking seems like it is about to lead to something better but, unfortunately, what audiences anticipate never shows up. What viewers are given instead is ten minutes of action, followed by an ending that isn’t quite earned.
Witches in the Woods is the second film to screen on Toronto After Dark’s opening night. If you’re trying to decide between seeing this or calling it a night and grabbing a few drinks with friends, stick with the latter.
Witches in the Woods screens at Toronto After Dark on Thursday, October 17 at 9:30 pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.
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