Ideally, I would have liked to review this movie at the time the Ebola outbreak was going on in the United States, but as we all know, life gets in the way, so I am just now getting around to watching and reviewing Ebola Syndrome after owning it for many, many months.
Asian horror movies became popular in in the U.S. for mainstream viewers with the advent of horror remakes like The Grudge, The Ring, Shutter, Pulse, and Dark Water; but fervent horror fans have a much more extensive knowledge of Asian horror films and know that nothing is better than the real thing. Some of the best include Audition, Old Boy, Ichi the Killer, The Host, and I Saw the Devil, with many more that can be argued to belong on this list. Chinese horror films put us in an even more defined category with films like Dumplings, The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story, Men Behind the Sun, The Eye, Ab-normal Beauty, Diary, and Re-Cyle. I prefer Japanese and Korean films over Chinese but that is probably due to the fact that there are a lot more options in the former category.
Ebola Syndrome is a Chinese horror film by Herman Yau that is about… well, the Ebola virus. If you have seen any of Herman Yau’s films, you know it won’t be as straight forward as that. Kai is a murderer on the run who has fled Hong Kong and is now working in a restaurant in Africa. He is about as immoral as it can get with his crude personality, chauvinistic attitude toward women, and violent sexual preferences. He is so wicked that not even prostitutes will sleep with him, having to resort to masturbating in raw meat, which he then serves to the customers at the restaurant. Ew. Did I mention how lewd and obscene this movie is? Well, it gets worse. Kai and his boss go to a remote Zulu tribal area to pick up provisions for the restaurant and Kai ends up raping a sick and defenseless native woman. Little does Kai know, but he has just contracted the Ebola virus. He deserves it!! Unfortunately the virus doesn’t stop there and he ends up raping and killing more people and serving the virus-laden body parts as hamburgers to the restauranteurs, spreading this internal-organ-eating virus at an aggressive rate.
If you have seen The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story, then this plot must sound dreadfully familiar to you. The Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome were both directed by Herman Yau and star Anthony Wong in the featured role. Wong’s characters in both films are about a disgruntled restaurant employee serving human meat to his customers, only Ebola Syndrome takes it a step further with infected meat. If you are trying to decide which film to watch, I would choose Ebola Syndrome so you don’t have to endure the slapstick humor of the cops in The Untold Story, but Ebola Syndrome has its many flaws as well.
I was hoping to see some gruesome disease outbreak like in Cabin Fever or Infection; instead, Ebola Syndrome relies heavily on Kai’s vulgar and smutty devices to instill fear. Having all the Ebola victims convulsing on the ground during their death twitch just doesn’t leave me reeling in terror. There are no gory flesh wounds, only people dropping like flies in spasmodic convulsions. Another thing that bothered me was the rate at which these people were dying. They are infected after Kai and are dying at a rapid rate, while Kai remains relatively healthy and lively. It’s not the physical horror* in this film that will get to people but its ability to shock with its perverted and offensive sense of humor. There is a lot more nudity and foul language than there are murders. This film isn’t for everyone and definitely caters towards an audience that enjoys indecent and explicit subject matter.
*I’d like to add that I found out that my dvd version of this movie is heavily edited on the gory scenes, leading me to believe that there was an unequal distribution of gore vs. explicit material. Please make sure you find an unedited version!!
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