Jukji anneun Ingan-deul-e Bam [Night of the Undead] (2020)

Korean cinema.

It keeps giving me such unexpected little treasures.  And yet I can still remember when the first few exceptionally good Korean films made their way into the videostores here.

In fact, it really wasn’t that long ago.

I have no idea how this happened, but then, great regional film industries seem to be sprouting up all over the place these days.

And believe me, I’m all in favor.

It’s also noteworthy that this one first crossed my desk on Tubi.  I’m always on the lookout for weird and foreign, so it’s a surprise to find this one available here in the U.S. before I heard even a whisper or two about it.

This is particularly unusual because the director, Jeong-won Shin, made three successful (well, in Korea…) supernatural comedies before this one.

I need to point out here that, despite the title, Night of the Undead is not a zombie film.  Instead, it is about So-Hee, a young married woman who discovers that her husband, Man-Gil, is cheating on her — only on the most epic, non-stop level imaginable.

But even that pales beside his curious habit of drinking gasoline straight from the pump.

The private detective she’s hired, Dr. Jang, tells her that Man-Gil is in fact an “unbreakable,” a mysterious, almost invulnerable creature which is probably from outer space.

So, with the help of Dr. Jang and two of her old school pals, So-Hee plans to kill her husband — who supposedly can be harmed with electricity — and make it look like an accident.

But things just don’t work out the way they’re supposed to, and the bodies start piling up…

Now Jeong-won Shin’s films have often featured oddball combinations of seemingly unrelated genres, like Gangsters and the ghost film in his first movie, To Catch a Virgin Ghost.

Here we have a Bodysnatchers-esque alien invasion film which has been crossed with a classic mystery play.

You know the kind of play, like, say, Dial M for Murder, where a small cast in a few limited settings get caught up in a complex plot involving murder, unexpected twists, and secret motives?

Although, in this case, it’s more of a mystery comedy, like Arsenic and Old Lace.

Only with Police, drunken driving arrests, car chases, Man-Gil’s alien buddies, and a team of commandos from a top-secret alien-hunting government agency thrown in here and there.

However, even this doesn’t really sum it all up: after all, in most murder comedies, the bodies at least have the decency to stay dead.

Not to mention what happens to poor Doctor Jang.

It all gets increasingly weird and silly, with more and more goofy complications, leading to a stunningly violent finale — although Night of the Undead just wouldn’t be the sort of goofy science fiction/horror murder comedy hybrid that it is if it didn’t have a final surprise waiting for us at the very end.

Now some reviewers have found this one a bit confusing, particularly once the murders start.  I never had any trouble following it, and frankly think that all the layers of complications that keep piling themselves up on So-He and her friends are the best part of the film — although the massive battle between Man-Gil and the alien hunting squad is definitely fun, as well.

And, yes, you do have to wonder whether they borrowed the term “Unbreakable” from M. Night Shyamalan.

I’ve always loved the sort of comedy/mystery play Jeong-won Shin is riffing on here, as much as I love the whole alien invaders plot with its underlying hints of Fifties-style paranoia.  It’s a beautiful combination, one that is clever, complex and funny.  It’s one of the best and most entertaining Korean films I’ve seen lately, and it leaves me thinking what I always end up thinking when I find a film like this:

Now why can’t our American film industry make anything this good anymore?

Oh, well, I’m being cynical.  There are some pretty good American films being made.

I just wish we made as many good films as the Koreans do…

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5 thoughts on “Jukji anneun Ingan-deul-e Bam [Night of the Undead] (2020)

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