At the film’s core is a band of likeably drawn characters that make up the Park family. The owners of a dilapidated gas station, the arrival of the aforementioned undead character develops into a cash making venture for our heroes, with Zombie for Sale unafraid to show them as figures with somewhat loose morals. Call them crims-with-hearts, we can root for them even if we disapprove (on paper) with what they are doing.
First time director Lee Min-jae proves an accomplished hand here and his work brims with confidence and scope. Zombie for Sale is, perhaps most importantly, a fun ride. It’s ridiculous, light and breezy. It lacks some of the more morose elements that the subgenre is often guilty of, and instead has an awareness of the tropes it is part of. Visually inventive, its humour traverses any language barriers as it proves to be just a downright enjoyable experience. Min-jae often frames proceedings wide, allowing for the impact of an action to be seen in its fullest or to be minimised by what surrounds it. And as the film progresses the set pieces become more ambitious and expansive, whilst retaining a focus on its gas station locale.
There are short comings. A too slow pace impedes the first half, whilst the second resembles too much of a rush. You wish the film could find a middle ground between esoteric quirks and all-out zombie apocalypse. And the film is rather lacking in the emotional impact department, feeling closer to a film like Australia’s Little Monsters then it’s South Korean peer Train to Busan. It’s characters never really develop beyond the well-worn tropes that they inhabit, despite likeable turns across the board. But these feel small issues when I was just having such a blast with Zombie for Sale.
If you let yourself go and don’t overthink it, you will be guaranteed a good time with Zombie for Sale. It doesn’t redefine the zombie narrative and as happy to reside in the tropes firmly established elsewhere. But it is a terrific ride and is the kind-of film that once again demonstrates (as if we needed to) that South Korean cinema is in a class of its own.
Also a special mention must go to Mike Lee-Graham and his simply gorgeous blu ray cover design. Arrow Films consistently release some of the prettiest box arts in the business and Zombie for Sale is no exception.