A wealthy married couple decide to ignore strict laws banning zombies in private homes and takes in a female zombie to groom as their housekeeper. When the zombie arrives, they also receive a note warning against feeding her any type of meat and also a loaded handgun. Meanwhile, the scarred zombie named Sara (Ayaka Komatsu) endures horrors, while longing for something from her past.
Miss Zombie is not your typical zombie film. Borrowing ideas from films like Fido and Warm Bodies, seasoned writer/director Sabu (also known as Hiroyuki Tanaka) has delivered a film which deviates heavily from your typical zombie movie. Almost completely filmed in black and white with slow, fluid camera shots, minimal dialog and barely any score, Miss Zombie offers a unique experience some may enjoy.
We begin with the delivery of Miss Zombie (played by Ayaka Komatsu) to a well-to-do family consisting of a doctor (played by Toru Tezuka) who never seems to see any patients and is always at home, a stay-at-home mother (played by Makoto Togashi) and their son.
Miss Zombie (referred to as MZ from now on) is described as a “level 1” zombie, essentially a carrier of the disease. Level 1s are sold as slaves, or pets as they are referred to, to families wealthy enough to afford them. Accompanying MZ and the metal cage she’s delivered in is a thin instruction manual detailing her strict vegetable only diet and a warning about the threat of MZ turning feral if she’s given meat. A handgun is also provided to the family in case of emergency.
MZ is kept in a storage shed a fair distance from the house and walks ever so slowly, and by herself, between these locales for her daily duty of scrubbing the family’s concrete path. These walks are interjected by local children throwing stones, or a trio of hoodlums who enjoy stabbing her with varying objects. Though MZ is essentially a walking vegetable, she harbours deep memories of her former life and the child she was carrying in-womb the day she was “turned”.
Two workers at the family’s house, who incidentally are just as slow as MZ in doing their work (seriously, during the entire film which I guesstimate spans over a week, they manage to construct a 3-sided brick “thing” at a whopping 4 brick high, though they are essentially working on it all day, every day), take a sexual liking to MZ, gazing at her zombified ass as she scrubs the concrete on her knees. These desires turn physical and forceful, and like MZ’s reactions to the stone throwing kids and hoodlums, she takes the abuse with mute indifference, though her eyes tell otherwise.
Even the Doc takes a shining to MZ, much to his wife’s chagrin, and when their child begins to look toward MZ as a mother-figure after she saves him, the wife begins a downward spiral into despair, culminating in a heart tugging climax with far too much moaning and yelping, much like the grape lady when she falls (YouTube it).
This film is as dry as they come, with no comedic or horror elements at play. The payoff at the end might be considered “too little too late” for some after all you have to sit through to get to it.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Miss Zombie is very artistic in its delivery. Scenes are slow and deliberate, just like the camerawork, and mimic MZ’s shuffling and slow, deliberate movements. As she “awakens” toward the end of the film so does the camera, adding to the effect and intensity of her actions. The film is repetitive though, with endless scenes of MZ walking to the house and scrubbing. I get the feeling that this was intentional to give us a sense of being in MZ’s shoes (and probably to save on budget), but it did start to take its toll on me. I’m sure Sabu had a societal commentary he wanted to deliver through this, and those who enjoy those kind of deeper meanings will find plenty to ponder about in this film, though for me the repetitiveness of Miss Zombie kind of diminished the effect of it.
If Sabu was trying to be complex with the feelings and motivations of the characters, in particular the mother and/or MZ, I feel it was a wasted effort. To me they were basic at best. Seeing your partner fall for another, or your child run into the arms of another would break anyone’s heart. For MZ, once the child looks to her for comfort, it was pretty easy to see what the effect of that would be too, considering she’s missing her baby. Don’t get me wrong, it was all effective, but don’t expect anything too deep here.
Overall, I enjoyed this film somewhat. It’s not something I’d purposely watch again, but if you like a bit of arty-farty film work and want to break away from the norm, give Miss Zombie a watch, you won’t be disappointed.
I give this 2 out of 5 rotten vegetables.