Fantastic Fest Review: MISS ZOMBIE Is A Bleak, Fresh Take On The Undead

Sometimes dying is the easy part.

Like Fido, Miss Zombie is set in a world where zombies are a part of life. Unlike Fido, Miss Zombie is played completely straight. It’s a surprise from director Hiroyuki Tanaka (AKA Sabu), a man best known for his comedies, which more often than not revolve around the Yakuza and star former boy band members. But this is a dark, moody film that also feels refreshingly new in a genre long since stale, and he does that by focusing on the zombie’s experience. You thought Bub had it bad? Just you wait.

Miss Zombie centers around a family that gets a zombie as a pet, like you do. She gets shipped to their home in a cage, helpfully bundled with an instruction booklet and a pistol to be used in case of emergency. Zombies don’t go feral unless they eat meat, so they’re told to set her up with a nice vegetarian diet. They do and she’s pretty complacent, doing whatever job they ask of her just like the good little slave she’s supposed to be.

The town isn’t happy that they own one but the father of the family, a doctor who seems to spend all his time at home, has promised to take care of things. They don’t keep her in the house, instead setting her up in their nearby storage unit and instructing her on her new commute. During the day they tell her to scrub away at a stone floor outside the house, a floor that never seems to get any cleaner no matter how much she ceaselessly scrubs away. The sound of her scraping away at the floor becomes the soundtrack for the family’s days - the mother of the house doesn’t work and their son just plays around the area, watching the new family pet work away. On one of the nights, as the zombie walks back to her storage unit she is assaulted by neighborhood children, who throw rocks at her and stab her in the shoulder as she lumbers by. She takes the various items they stab into her and lays them out in her new home side by side, standing in the dark all night tirelessly and looking at an old picture of herself, a picture of a young beautiful pregnant woman.

The family has two workers that also help out around the land, and they take an interest in Miss Zombie… more specifically, the way she bends over on her hands and knees to to scrub the floor. This soon turns into something far darker for the zombie.

The film slowly builds as more and more bad things pile on top of her - it’s definitely the kind of film where you see the awful side of human nature and wonder who the real monsters are. But we all know what’s going to happen, right? It’s the classic Gremlins set-up - when you are given a dangerous thing with rules that you can’t break you know that they will be broken at some point. Meat will be eaten.

The movie is grueling to get to that point, though. This is told from the zombie’s point of view so it’s a literally black and white experience, full of repetitiveness and boredom, and it seems like it could turn off people expecting a typical zombie movie. Don’t let it - this is the first interesting take on the genre in years; a sad, contemplative look at what it means to be human.