you ever fall in love with a zombie? Don’t answer too quickly. The point at
which humanity ends is open to debate in Sabu’s intimately stripped down Miss Zombie (trailer here), which screens
during the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival.
the very near future, zombies are a fact of life, but Dr. Teramoto is still
rather surprised when an old colleague ships him one for safe-keeping. As long
as they do not feed Shara meat, she should remain docile, but her instructions
come with a handy pistol, just in case (hello Chekhov). In spite of the
neighbors’ protests, Shara soon settles into a Sisyphean existence scrubbing the
Teramotos’ flagstone veranda.
Shara seems to inspire very human-like responses from those around her. Teramoto’s
wife Shizuko feels pity for her, while their son Kenichi is fascinated by her mysterious
presence. Unfortunately, the doctor’s lecherous groundskeepers act on their
vilest impulses towards her, with his silent acquiescence. When tragedy
unexpectedly strikes, Shara’s relationship with the family will become far more
Miss Zombie has the general
sensibilities of the zombie film Joseph Losey never made. To a large extent, the
human exploitation of zombies represents more conventional class and gender
conflicts (which are present too, barely contained beneath the film’s surface).
It also directly explores notions of human sentiency, hinting at lingering
sense memories from Shara’s previous life.
question, Ayaka Komatsu gives the finest zombie performance probably ever. She
is the film’s lynchpin, anchor, and all-around MVP. Watching her so subtly yet
so vividly project her stirrings of memory and consciousness is absolutely
heartbreaking. Bub from Day of the Dead simply
cannot hold a candle to her. She also gets some key support from Makoto Togashi
and young Riku Onishi, as Shizuko and Kenichi Teramoto, who figure prominently
in the emotionally heavy third act.
Sabu’s relatively simple but deep-as-the-ocean story is worthy of her efforts.
For a genre film, Miss Zombie packs a
shocking wallop of a punch. Daisuke Sôma’s mostly black-and-white
cinematography is also unusually stylish, conveying a vibe that is part old
school Romero and part Cassavetes.
Zombie, Sabu really raises the stakes for zombie films. The same old
shuffling hordes simply will not cut it anymore. It ranks alongside the
original Night of the Living Dead,
but takes viewers to a very different place. Highly recommended for genre fans
and those who appreciate social allegories of any stripe, Miss Zombie screens Friday (5/16), Saturday (5/24) and Sunday
(5/25) during this year’s Seattle International Film Festival.
Labels: Japanese Cinema, Sabu, SIFF '14, Zombies