Punk Fu Zombie

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Punk Fu Zombie
"This is not a film made with the expectation of a polished result."

Sometimes, even in genres like science fiction and horror, a film comes along that is so far out of left field as to be almost unreviewable. Punk Fu Zombie, which premièred at Fantasia, is one of those films. Whether or not it's any good is almost beside the point. There was a world before Punk Fu Zombie and there is a world afterwards. They are not the same.

Zak (Xavier Dumontier) likes hanging out with his robot pal, taking drugs and playing video games. Like young people anywhere, one might say - but this is not anywhere, this is the independent country of Quebec in 2048, and Zac is living in a poorly fortified shack in a slum infested with the living dead. He doesn't have to - his dad (Stéphane Messier) is the country's leader, the man who led it to freedom - but it's where all the cool kids are. Still, when the trouble in the area gets worse, his dad insists that playtime is over. It's now time for him to join a military patrol and use his kung fu skills to kick some zombie ass.

Copy picture

So far, so straightforward. Although he prefers to play on his Gameboy when he gets the chance, Zak comes to enjoy exploding zombies - and even the rat people who scavenge their corpses - with a big ray gun. But what's the secret of the little glowing stars the zombies try to eat? Why are people eagerly drinking one another's vomit? And what is all this mysterious muttering about a prophecy? Will our hero realise what his dad has done and take action to save Quebec before it's too late?

A refreshingly anarchic take on the politics of independence which will appeal to viewers regardless of their own opinions, Punk Fu Zombie also draws on class politics and lampoons Canadian culture more widely. But mostly it's about zombies. And ninjas. Probably the worst ninjas ever committed to film, who fight as if they saw a wuxia movie months ago and are belatedly copying the moves. It doesn't matter. For emergencies, they have magic sparkly dust. Cue a romantic subplot that gives our hero, already confused, more challenges to deal with.

This is not a film made with the expectation of a polished result. Sets shake. Special effects are gloriously amateurish. The animated elements look like they were made in Microsoft Paint. Punk Fu Zombie knows exactly what it is and revels in it; but this isn't just a so-bad-it's-good film. It sparkles with originality and, somewhere along the way, manages to capture the epic atmosphere of some of the best Seventies science fiction. There are some smart observations hidden amid the chaos. It's joyous and spirited in the finest punk tradition.

If there's one real problem here, it's with the pacing. Punk art works best when it's short. Punk Fu Zombie has unfortunate saggy bits and would really benefit from sharper editing. This is why - later cuts for the fans aside - directors are usually discouraged from directing their own work, because personal attachment means they're too often tempted to keep what they should throw away.

Despite this issue, Gabriel Claveau has well and truly announced his presence. Many people won't see any good reason for this film to exist. Others will adore it. Regardless, it's destined to circulate as a cult favourite for decades to come.

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2017
Share this with others on...
Punk Fu Zombie packshot
An independent Quebec is infested by zombies and only the son of its dubious hero leader can unite the ninjas, punks and rat people whose skills might save it.

Festivals:

Fantasia 2017

Search database: