With its stereotyped characters, casual racism and gross-out humour, Ebola Syndrome is a goofy exploitation film that is definitely not for everyone.
“You bully me?”
Anthony Wong is a decent actor. He’s been in some pretty good films (Infernal Affairs), and some pretty bad ones (The Mummy: Something Something Jet Li) and is seen, certainly in the west, as a bankable, versatile character actor, playing villains, cops, drunkards, and anything in between. But, like so many like him, before it all he played second-rate villains (due to his mixed ancestry), and kinda-heroes in low-budget cult films
Ebola Syndrome is one of his later exploitation films, and centres around Kai, played by Wong, who is a convict on the run after killing his boss, raping his boss’ wife and almost setting fire to their young daughter. This is the very first scene in the movie, and does a fairly good job of establishing the tone of the film. He escapes to Johannesburg, where he spends ten years working in a restaurant. One day, his boss, after being ripped off by the local butcher, takes him to a tribal village, to buy cheaper pigs. However, they are suffering from a recent ebola outbreak, and after Kai rapes a dying villager (isn’t he just the best?), he contracts it. A string of killings, an escape back to Hong Kong, human burgers, ebola everywhere and a sub-plot involving the young girl all grown up later, and you have yourself the makings of a fairly straightforward exploitation thriller.
What impresses me the most with Ebola Syndrome is how much it runs the gamut of the genre standards: you got gore, senseless killings, rape, amazing acting, blatant racism, cannibalism, necrophilia, dousing children in gasoline, a guy having sex with a pork steak, ten solid minutes of the same man spitting at people on the street while screaming “Ebola!”
You know, standard stuff.
And boy is it entertaining. Ebola Syndrome, like the dime-a-dozen films like it, never tries to go for anything resembling sensible cinema. The movie’s only goal is make you wince, laugh, and groan, usually all at the same time, and it exceeds at doing that. And it’s just fun. I don’t know if the translation I had was bad, or if the dialogue is intentionally dumb, but with lines like “Ebola! Let’s spread it together! Run. Run,” and “Do you know what Ebola is?? No, it’s not Deborah.” Yeah, that’s a line someone wrote and Anthony Wong said, and it is great.
The acting is dumb in just about every language – the English-speaking moments are, as one might expect, the absolute worst and sounds like the director sounding out the dialogue in post. Wong gives it his all while acknowledging how dumb the whole thing is, and manages to compel the audience enough to keep them watching even as he does increasingly terrible things. Maybe it’s to do with how funny it all is; for example, there’s a scene where he holds a child hostage, only to accidentally kill it because he held it too tightly. He quickly disposes of the child by throwing it off-screen. No film like that can or should be taken seriously, and this is why Ebola Syndrome is worth watching.
Is it any good? Of course it isn’t. Equal parts comedy, horror (because of the gore), and crime film, this could almost be a parody of several films, especially Outbreak, which came out the previous year. This is a great film to put on when you’re looking for something fun to take the mick out of with your friends.
Verdict: If you love gore, baffling dialogue and exploitation in droves, you’ll get a kick out of this
Ebola Syndrome (1996)
Also known as: Yi boh lai beng du
Director: Herman Yau
Writer: Ting Chau
Kai – Anthony Wong