Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Village People Zombie Show

Zombi Kg Pisang was released at a time when Pakistan was creating quite a buzz with its own zombie (and first ever horror) film, Zibahkhana (Hell's Ground). From what I've read, and from the trailer I've seen, the Pakistani film is pretty serious stuff. But Mamat Khalid's film is a whole different universe. Zombi Kg Pisang, with all its B-grade horror conventions, is played solely for laughs.

I saw Man Laksa on a flight once, and couldn't get past one-third of the film without nodding off. But I'd wanted to catch Zombi when it was in the cinemas, and it came at one of the busiest periods of the year for me. I caught up with it on DVD last week and was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it is. Sure, it's uneven in some parts, but Mamat Khalid's comedy sense is in full swing here. This is helped greatly by leading man Awie's surprisingly good comedic turn. I'd seen him in Afdlin Shauki's Baik Punya Cilok, but in Zombi, there's a whole new side to his comedy acting, especially when he's playing the role of a school dropout who harbours dreams of becoming a rock star.

Zombi is really a tale of the microcosm, or how a closed environment reacts when it is invaded by outer elements. This is standard textbook stuff - a small group of people trapped within their own turf, the stuff so favoured by horror maestros. But Mamat goes the extra edge, imbuing political and social satire every chance he gets. The only figure of authority in the group of villagers trapped in the small building, a Rela volunteer, is also the first to get infected and turn into a brain-eating zombie. At one point, Awie's character likens the zombies to fanatics influenced by deviant religious teachings.

The zombies themselves are not the conventional, dumb flesh-eaters, but intelligent creatures that are capable of speech and even rempit activities. Their "group meeting" in the village centre is like a political ceramah gone wrong. Their make-up is deliberately silly too.

While some of the jokes may not pass muster, like Loloq and his rock band who happen to be passing through the village and who occasionally vogue into magazine cover poses, much of the humour too, is very localised and would be lost on foreign sensibilities not familiar with local culture, mannerisms or slang. But Zombi is still easily one of the most entertaining local films of this year.

There's a bit of trivia here: At one point in the movie, someone very audibly utters the title of Mamat's next film, Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang. Judging from the trailer alone, it looks like that one's going to be a blast too, a horror-comedy-noir thriller shot in black-and-white!

Zombi Kg Pisang is yet another in a long line of local DVDs that are not English-friendly. The main menu, too, looks awful. But the transfer is OK though not great.

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