Zee-Oui: The Man-Eater (DVD)
Directed by Nida Sudasna and Buranee Rachjaibun
Distributed by Tokyo Shock
Upon first glancing at the DVD for Zee-Oui: The Man-Eater, it would be easy to conclude that this Zee-Oui character likes the taste of men. Maybe this is really a gay film and was sent to us by accident. But if one looks at the back, it turns out Zee-Oui isn't about deep-throating at all. Instead it is about eating children. Damn, that title is way off.
Zee-Oui (Duan Long) has had it rough. This skinny, sickly looking fellow hails from a very poor part of China where food and medicine are scarce. War, death, and civil unrest have driven this man from his home and dear mother. Things will pick up and be merry when he gets to Thailand, right?
It is sad to say that nothing good, apart from some short-lived farming success, is in store for the 30-something Zee-Oui. The locals hate him because of his shy nature and his tuberculosis, which keeps him from doing even the minimalist of manual labor. Even when a spot of good luck comes so that he can finally afford some meds, that one ray of hope is shattered because some jackasses decide to play keep-away with his drugs. Hell, even the small children taunt and tease him to no end, and that is a bad idea.
One night while he is asleep and having a rather nasty flashback concerning his military past, Zee accidentally strangles a tiny girl who just happened to be by his bedside. What to do?! Quick! Hide her body and eat her heart. That is a sound idea!
It turns out that eating human hearts settles Zee's constant coughing, insecurities, and nervousness for a brief period. YAY MEDICAL WONDERS! That's one hell of a prescription to deal with: slight comfort that only costs one child's life every few weeks. I can just see sick old pervies lining up outside the pharmacy stores now.
Zee-Oui: The Man-Eater is a very difficult film to review. One big reason, out of several smaller ones, is its utterly depressing tone throughout the whole affair. Zee gets about 2 minutes worth of joy during the entire picture. A depiction of human suffering over the course of nearly one and a half hours can take a big toll on viewers. That, compounded with the inevitable ending, makes it hard to look forward to anything apart from the blood … and boy, does it flow.
This film is not afraid to show brutality toward children. We see a small girl strangled, one's throat is slit, a small boy is set on fire, and one more kiddie is seen lying dead on the floor, gutted like a fish. It is easily one of the harder films this reviewer has ever watched, and that library has been packed with real nasty shit. While some gore is pleasing to horror fans, this kind just doesn't hit any mark other than sorrow.
Zee-Oui: The Man-Eater is not without its merits, believe me. The entire movie is shot with a slightly grainy beauty. The audience can get a real sense of what it was like to live in such a horrid setting during 1950's Thailand. The dirt, the poverty, and the lack of acceptance Zee-Oui feels are all very tangible thanks to the camera and Mr. Long's realistic performance. Zee may not be very likable through the film, but it is easy to feel sorrow for him just based on simple human compassion. Rarely are we treated to pleasant landscapes or happy feelings, but those rare moments come as the only rays of sunshine before a child is dragged away to his/her death.
The performances all around hold a steady stream of quality. Zee-Oui: The Man-Eater, however, is not driven by its dialogue; and to be honest, there isn't an abundance of it. We get just enough talk to know what is going on, but it could easily be taken out with nothing lost, and one could still walk away from the whole experience feeling totally depressed.
Now, it could be expected that a film based on a true story would have a plethora of special features, tons of extras just busting out of the seams like Brian Blessed fitting into Paris Hilton's clothing. Nope. Wrong. What is handed over to the viewer is the original trailer, a decent sized image gallery, and the usual batch of previews from Tokyo Shock's vault. Whoopie! After being bummed out for over an hour watching this amazing film, we demand more than nothing.
I suggest that many horror fans should see this film just once. Not for the violence or shock value but just for the experience of totally unprotected human suffering. If it doesn't bring out a couple thoughts like, “Boy … I sure am glad that I don't have to live such a shitty existence,” then you are not human and we have finally discovered a foolproof way of exposing the aliens that walk among us!
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