Ebola Syndrome (1996)

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Ebola Syndrome is one hell of a sordid little movie. It’s one of the more extreme films to come from both Hong Kong and the Asian Extreme Cinema genre. Ebola Syndrome is a Gross-Out/Horror/Comedy film by notorious Hong Kong Director Herman Yau, and it stars Hong Kong’s greatest character actor, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (best known for his roles in Infernal Affairs and John Woo’s Hard Boiled) as Kai, a sleazy psychopath and murderer hiding out in South Africa who contracts the Ebola virus by raping an indigenous woman, and then proceeds to unknowingly spread it to both South Africa and Hong Kong. Ebola Syndrome is a rarity, one of the many hidden gems of exploitation cinema. It’s not one of the more well known Asian Extreme films, it wasn’t incredibly popular upon release, and the only reason I know about it is because a friend stumbled across a clip on YouTube, but, I’m glad I managed to find it, as it’s one of the more uncompromisingly extreme movies to come from Hong Kong.

Ebola Syndrome is a movie that’s incredibly rough around the edges. Nearly every aspect of this movie is incredibly flawed. From the cinematography, to the editing, to the special effects, the dialogue, the acting, and the story, every single production aspect has major problems. However, that’s not to say that Ebola Syndrome is a ‘bad’ film. As much as each cinematic aspect is flawed, Ebola Syndrome is still very competently made. Camera trickery, decent editing and the film’s acting talent hides many of the faults, faults that come from the film’s low budget and production limitations. Ebola Syndrome is not an impressive cinematic venture by any means, but the film does the best it can achieve with a low budget aesthetic, graphic content and a rough, almost amateurish quality.

Nonetheless, the finest aspect of Ebola Syndrome is the amazing performance by Anthony Wong Chau Sang as Kai, the film’s main character. Ebola Syndrome is a film all about the sleazy, murderous antics of Kai, the Ebola carrier, and Anthony Wong’s performance of Kai is frankly amazing. He is able to accurately portray Kai’s frightening psychopathy, his comedic bumbling idiocy and his gross perverted sleaziness perfectly with a comedic sensibility that offsets Kai’s more disturbing acts. Anthony Wong stands out amongst the rest of the cast of Ebola Syndrome, because the acting from the other cast is very wooden and downright ridiculous. I couldn’t take any other character seriously because of how bad their acting was. However, Anthony Wong definitely stole the screen, as he seemed to be the only actor who was actually selling his performance, and he looked like he’s having the time of his life doing so judging by how natural and funny his performance is.

However, what makes Ebola Syndrome stand out amongst its peers, is the fact that it is an exploitation movie that’s more daring, more sickening, more perverse than most of the films that are categorized under the exploitation cinema banner. It appears that nothing is off limits for this movie. The film is chock full of sex scenes, graphic violence, animal cruelty, rape and murder. However, what makes Ebola Syndrome so strange is the fact that each of these lurid scenes have an odd, distasteful comedic edge to them: murders are offset with one liners, the sex scenes are ridiculously over-the-top, and during the infamous Ebola rape scene, Kai’s penis becomes trapped in the woman’s vagina and he desperately tries to pull himself out. Personally, I am unsure as to whether this approach works or not. On the one hand, it does reduce the disturbing effects of such scenes and the jokes can be quite funny at times, on the other hand the content of these scenes are so extreme that the humor distracts from the impact of such extreme scenes. In the end, however, Ebola Syndrome is a film that’s intent on being as exploitative and as uncaring as it can possibly be. Ebola Syndrome is a film that really does not care about being good, bad, or even enjoyable. The charm of Ebola Syndrome is the fact that this film feels like it was made to impress nobody. It’s an exercise in bad taste cinema that doesn’t censor itself, nor does it try to make itself forcibly enjoyable, and I have to admit, I have a soft-spot for films that attempt such a feat. In many ways, Ebola Syndrome is similar to Bad Taste, Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS and Meet The Feebles because of it’s uncaring attitude towards cinema and the taboos of extreme content.

As I’ve said before, Ebola Syndrome is a film that’s very rough around the edges, and it isn’t ‘good’ by any sense of the word. This a film made to disgust critics, gross-out an audience and leave an impact on the viewer because of the film’s uncaring extreme content. Thus, I have to say that I really like this film. It’s charmingly low budget and evocatively provocative whilst still providing story, character and production talent. Personally, I find this film to really entertaining despite it’s flaws and lurid content because it’s one of the few films to showcase extreme gratuity with a sarcastic wit. However, it isn’t a film I would freely recommend. Ebola Syndrome isn’t a film that’s for everyone, and one has to understand the content and intent of such a film before viewing it, lest they become overwhelmed by the tasteless subject matter. But if a viewer has the stomach to handle such sequences of depravity, then I whole heartedly suggest giving Ebola Syndrome a watch because I personally enjoyed my experience with this film.

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