Ebola Syndrome (1996) Review

"Ebola Syndrome" Chinese DVD Cover

“Ebola Syndrome” Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Herman Yau
Writer: Chau Ting
Producer: Wong Jing
Cast: Anthony Wong, Angel Wong, Vincent Wan, Mariane Chan, Lo Meng, Ng Sui Ting, Peter Ngor Chi Kwan, Shing Fui On, Cindy Yip, Chang Yin
Running Time: 97 min.

By Martin Sandison

After the success of the sadistic and powerful Bunman: The Untold Story, the director and star team of Herman Yau and Anthony Wong set about making another classic slice of Category III horror, Ebola Syndrome. Those expecting more of the same will be disappointed, as the movie is far more tongue in cheek than it is nasty. Bunman’s Wong is completely psychotic, and delivers one of the greatest performances of its kind; Ebola’s Kai is one of the most disgusting characters ever to grace the screen. Credit must be given to Anthony Wong for both portrayals, as alongside Simon Yam, he was the king of Category III.

The action starts with Kai seducing his bosses wife, being discovered by him, and promptly murdering everyone. He absconds to South Africa where he works for a pittance as a chef in a Chinese restaurant. When Kai and his new restaurant boss take a trip to a tribe to buy a low-price pig, Kai rapes a tribe girl who evidently has some kind of disease. It’s Ebola, and he contracts it. The irony comes in that Kai is one in ten million people who is immune to the disease; but he can give it to anyone through his bodily fluids, and boy does he love to spread them around.

Some horrendous highlights are: Kai penetrating a piece of meat as he listens to his boss having sex in the next room, and cooking it the next day; in a nod to Bunman he murders people who have the virus and makes them into “South African burgers”; he also wipes his nose, post-sneeze, on garments in a clothes shop. The last one doesn’t sound bad, but as the viewer knows that he has Ebola, and no one else in the movie does, the amping up of his disgusting nature makes for cringe-worthy viewing. Ebola, as explained in the movie, is a real virus that causes internal bleeding that’s fatal, and has a very high death rate.

Of special note, the cast includes Lo Meng (Two Champions of Shaolin) as Kai’s boss, in a noteworthy non-martial arts role; divorced completely from the Venom mob Shaw Brothers movies that made him famous. He aquits himself well in a dramatic and comic manner, the latter especially when he’s channelling his chi having energetic sex with his wife. Shing Fui On (Big Silly Head to his fans) has a small cameo, chewing up the scenery as usual. Vincent Wan Yuen Ming (Wild Search, Don’t Give A Damn) has a small part as the Police officer who goes against Kai, and actresses Marianne Chan Miu Ying (Ghost Punting) and Cindy Yip Sin Shi (A Moment of Romance 2) are featured at different stages of the narrative as Kai’s love interests.

The direction is very well-handled by Yau, with some creative shots, Hong Kong-style visuals and a tight running time. One shot stood out for me as brilliant: a POV inside Kai’s mouth as he goes to kiss a girl, with the Ebola rife in there. It’s hilarious and disgusting, as is the movie overall. Without Wong’s maniacal performance, the movie wouldn’t really stand up; he delivers on every level. As the film climaxes, it breaks into that secret world of Hong Kong filmmaking madness that blows the mind – it cannot be described, because it is a massive spoiler – rest assured, this one doesn’t disappoint.

Interestingly, I watched some extended nasty scenes in the deleted footage. It seems strange were cut out, as they are in no way as bad as some of the scenes in the full length Bunman. The aesthetic of Ebola Syndrome is a little tacky and over colourised, and let’s be honest, the idea is a little silly. This doesn’t detract from a rollicking good piece of category III outrageousness.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10

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