Saturday, October 24, 2009

RV!: Ebola Syndrome (1996)

RV!: Ebola Syndrome (1996) Dir: Herman Yau Date Released (DVD): July 2007 Date Seen: October 24, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5

Herman Yau is one twisted cuss and I love him for it. Ebola Syndrome, his most notorious film, is hilariously caustic and exploitative in its depiction of a Sweeney Todd-esque killing spree that makes Peter Jackson's Dead Alive look like the picture of self-restraint. Anthony Wong plays Ah Kai, the messenger of Yau as vengeful authorial God. Using Kai as "Exhibit A," Yau wastes no time in showing us how weak-minded, vengeful, preposterous and mean-spirited people can be. We're introduced to our scrupleless villain as he screws his boss' wife, gets caught after asking her to pee on him, is almost forced to castrate himself with a pair of pruning sheers, kills his boss, a bodyguard and his mistress with said pruning sheers and a mahjong table, then flees to South Africa. And Yau's just getting warmed up.

As deliriously vile as Kai is, he's not Yau's whipping boy but rather a poster child for man's inhumanity to man. Once he's contracted Ebola, by raping a sick native--"Her nipples are the size of prunes!"--we learn by inference from a couple of physicians' surprisingly straight-faced testimonials that he's the lucky "One in ten million" carrier that will spread the disease without being infected by the deadly disease. This allows him to rape, bludgeon, spit on, murder and serve up infected human burger meat with verve and gusto while his victims convulse like fish out of water as their internal organs liquefy.

While it may seem like Yau doesn't take anything seriously, he has an odd deference for the effects of Ebola, though he has an even stranger way of showing it. We're given three separate mini-lectures on the virus spreads, its after-effects and its symptoms, the latter two of which are illustrated by an autopsy and a slide show with a schlock-monger's attention for grisly detail (Who could forget that putrid, grey heart or that nude gumline?). These are the signs Yau gives us that in his world, Ebola is more serious than AIDS, a disease whose name is brought up as soon as the thought of a new pandemic in Hong Kong is mentioned. Ebola is more violent, more immediate and more catching than AIDS, flying about in every bit of ropy spittle. God, that's good!

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