SARS Wars (2004)

Starring Suthep Po-ngam, Suppakorn Kitsuwan, Phintusuda Tunphairao, Lene Christensen

Directed by Taweewat Wantha

Near the end of SARS Wars one of the main characters declares, “Zombies, a bomb, and a giant snake!? This movie is really aiming for some cash!” That about sums it up really; if you like your zom with a dash of com, your action with a dose of buffoonery, and your sex and gore over the top, then SARS Wars comes heartily recommended.

It seems like recently every country wants to augment its national film identity with a zombie tale all their own. Thailand finally enters the fray with this whacked out entry that posits a near future world where the SARS virus has entered its fourth devastating mutation. In the beginning of the film government officials proudly proclaim that “Thailand is the only virus free country in the world.” Of course, their boastfulness comes to an abrupt end during an inventive sequence in which a SARS infected cockroach travels over a series of postcards, chronicling its journey from Africa all the way to Thailand, where it passes on the virus to a human victim.

Meanwhile, Liu, the film’s schoolgirl heroine, has just been abducted by a bumbling group of crooks, prompting her father to call on the aid of a mysterious “Master”, who was introduced during the film’s bloody anime title sequence. Though Liu’s father tempts the master with bikini clad babes in exchange for his services, the master prefers to pass this assignment on to his young protégé, Khun, who promptly makes an appearance, does the running man, displays his swordsmanship, and blows the crotch out of his superhero uniform via a display of pure exuberance.

The two storylines converge when the condominium complex in which the kidnappers are hiding becomes the focus of the zombie outbreak. Before you can spell DOTD, the complex is overrun with a unique brand of ghoul reminiscent of Deadites, Bava-esque demons, and plain old zombies. A number of crowd pleasing and gory set pieces ensue, including shotgun decapitations, zombies munching on drugged out club-goers (who barely seem to mind), a particularly persistent zombie baby, and more arterial spray than you can shake a vein at.

Khun arrives on the scene and, after a fast-paced cat and mouse chase through the complex, manages to secure Liu with the help of his Master and the government SARS specialist Doctor Diana. Khun and Liu immediately fall in love with Khun declaring, “I will sacrifice my life to rescue you. I only want to… have sex with you, one time.” The Master isn’t left hanging either, as his reward is a lapdance from the hotpants and fishnets wearing Doctor.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of SARS Wars is how the filmmakers are constantly trying to work around the notoriously inconsistent Thai censors, especially when it comes to sex. Flying noodles take the place of flying fluids, a particularly masochistic scene is rendered in anime to blunt its impact, etc. This pervasive sense of fun tends to sugarcoat all the perversities on display. Nearly everything is played for laughs.

SARS Wars has to be one of the more distasteful and lame titles in a long while, but it is misleading. The poster art shows lightsaber brandishing heroes and comes off more like a sci-fi spoof than the fun zombie gut muncher it really is. Do yourself a favor and catch SARS Wars however you can; respiratory failure has never been so much fun.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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