Friday, June 29, 2012

NYAFF ’12: Dead Bite

If a group of bikini-clad women are attacked by marauding zombies, you are apt to see a lot of bikini-clad zombies before long.  That inescapable logic is pretty much the guiding principle for Joey Boy’s Dead Bite (trailer here), which screens with authority during the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival.

Joey Boy is a Thai rapper, who convinced his group, Gankor Club, to play themselves in his scrappily independent zombie-mermaid religious cult movie, probably with the help of their co-stars’ wardrobe.  Due to the framing device, we know Gankor Club’s latest gig went profoundly wrong.  Basically, it was supposed to be the old three hour cruise, shooting promotional videos while partying with some gorgeous women.  Unfortunately, they chose the wrong isle: Mermaid Island.

The first clue would be the marine zombies shambling out of the waves.  Trying to take refuge inland, they run smack into the Forest Goddess, who rules her Mermaid sect through fear and sexual tension.  Of course, Joey Boy and his mates had no idea what they were stumbling into.  Yet, for some reason inexplicably connected to WWII, Japanese tourist Miyuki intentionally came to Mermaid Island to plunder a mermaid mummy.  It might hold the secret of immortality or something.  Meanwhile, the Gankor dudes are dying like flies and then popping up again as the undead.

Dead Bite is sort of like a Piranha 3D, except it is 2D and Thai, both of which make it way cooler.  Evidently, Joey Boy and Gankor Club are the real deal in Thailand and also have major cred with their American counterparts.  As actors they certainly do not seem very self-conscious, throwing themselves into their Scooby and Shaggy roles with admirable energy. 

As an auteur, Joey Boy keeps it all quite snappy.  There is also a strange postmodern aspect to his self-referential story that might be purely accidental.  Of course, Dead Bite would not be possible without its game supporting cast of attractive women, including Kumiko Sugaho and Lakana Wattanawongsiri as Miyuki and the Forest Goddess, respectively, whose contributions are obvious.  Despite all the lunacy and ogling, they more or less maintain their dignity throughout.  Surely, their next stop will be Cannes with Joe “Uncle Boonmee” Weerasethakul.

It is nice to see a director’s vision up on-screen, knowing he made exactly the film he intended.  Gleefully manic and unabashedly randy (in a PG-13 sort of way), Dead Bite is everything a zombie beach movie ought to be.  Just good, clean, blood-splattered fun, it is highly recommended for fans of a wide array of B-movies when it screens next Friday (7/6) and the following Wednesday (7/11) as this year’s NYAFF continues at the Walter Reade Theater.