Friday, January 06, 2006

Review: Sars Wars

Sheer unadulterated genius. SARS WARS is a gut-wrenchingly funny, utterly deranged, deliriously original, absurdist zom-com from Thailand.

A team of thugs kidnap pretty schoolgirl Liu and hold her hostage in an apartment block. Little do they know, a zombie outbreak is taking place in the very same apartment, a giant snake is on the loose, and the government have set a timer to blow up the building to contain the outbreak. Think that sounds crazy? We haven't met the good guys yet: Khun Khrabii, a stoic hero sent to rescue Liu, his master Thep, a balding lecher with a battery-powered light saber, and sexy scientist Dr. Diana, creator of an antiviral shot that has a 25 in 26 chance of accidentally making the patient's head explode. And then there's the bad guys...

Director Taweewat Wantha and his team of writers have crafted something akin to the fevered imagination of Peter Jackson's BRAINDEAD, combined with the wild "mo-lei-tau" surreal/spoof humour of Hong Kong's Stephen Chow. The actual zombie and horror-themed content is surpisingly well realised, with excellent make-up effects, some great CGI sequences, and a real sense of tension; but its in the ridiculous send-ups of everything from Japanimation to John Woo to Star Wars to The Crying Game that the movie really takes off.

Thoroughly self-aware, characters constantly make references to the film's attempts to "make money, not win awards": a little unfair, because there is far more craft and ability on view in this film than in a hundred Hollywood blockbusters put together. Certainly none of the recent crop of zombie films pouring out of Hollywood come close. Even Stephen Chow, the acknowledged king of this style of comedy, should feel threatened: this is a better film than KUNG FU HUSTLE, and is possibly even better than SHAOLIN SOCCER too.

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