EbolaSyndromeWe all knew this was coming: a completely over-the-top horror-exploitation movie about the Ebola virus! This film premiered back in 1996, but it’s obviously far more topical nowadays.

Hong Kong’s extremely prolific Herman Yau is known for over-the-top fare: among the 50-plus films he’s directed are notorious Category III (the Hong Kong equivalent of the NC-17 rating) sickies like THE UNTOLD STORY, TAXI HUNTER (both 1993) and GONG TAU (2007). EBOLA SYNDROME (YI BOH LAI BENG DUK), starring Yau regular Anthony Wong, was apparently conceived as a knock-off of 1995’s OUTBREAK, and outdoes that film in every possible respect.

In Hong Kong the psychopathic Kai is caught screwing a powerful mob boss’s wife—by the boss himself! Kai is beaten, pissed on and nearly castrated, but manages to turn the tables, killing his attackers and the woman before taking off.

Years later Kai is ensconced in South Africa, employed as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. There he’s confronted by a lot of racism as well as his manager’s thoroughly unpleasant wife, who admittedly despises Kai. Also residing in the area is a young woman who as a child witnessed the massacre that drove Kai from Hong Kong.

One day Kai and his manager head off to buy some cheap meat from a Zulu tribe. While doing so Kai decides to rape a passed-out Zulu woman, who comes to as she’s being violated, forcing Kai to kill her. As she’s dying she spits in his face, and so infects him with the Ebola virus. He becomes violently ill, which only lasts briefly; he’s now the carrier of the virus, and as such wastes no time putting his nastier predilections into action.

Kai kills his manager and rapes the latter’s wife. He then chops up the corpses and, after offing a nosy restaurant employee, turns the corpses into hamburgers which he serves to diners the following day—unwittingly spreading Ebola in the process.

The following day Kai, flush with his deceased boss’s money, heads back to Hong Kong. There he bangs two whores and inadvertently infects several people with his saliva. Authorities, with the help of the young woman who escaped Kai’s clutches, manage to track him down, but not before he infects quite a few more people and kicks off a full-blown Ebola epidemic.

In this film Herman Yau makes his intentions clear early on: the opening twenty minutes contain lurid depictions of sex, murder, mass brutality, child abuse, urination, vomiting, masturbation and mondo footage of frogs sliced up, not to mention some ugly depictions of the type of casual racism that marked the apartheid era in South Africa (adding to the madness is the subtitled translation of the opening line of dialogue: a woman telling her kid to “go play with yourself”). The outrages don’t stop there, with chicken head ripping, rape, necrophilia, eyeball gouging, decapitation, dismemberment, cannibalism and a graphically depicted autopsy; and for good measure, there’s even a close-up of a mouse being crushed by the wheel of a cab as it pulls up to a curb.

In classic Hong Kong movie fashion the film is extremely kinetic, with fast pacing and extroverted performances that border on histrionic. Logic isn’t something Herman Yau or screenwriter Ting Chau much concern themselves with (how is it that a supporting character manages to be in South Africa and Hong Kong at the same time as the protagonist?), ending up with a film that’s often unintentionally hilarious (who knew Ebola infection caused people to go into sudden hysterical seizures?). One thing, however, that EBOLA SYNDROME definitely isn’t is boring.

Vital Statistics

Golden Harvest

Director: Herman Yau
Producer: Jim Wong
Screenplay: Ting Chau
Cast: Anthony Wong, Ming Wan Yeung, Mui-Ying Chan, Fui-On Shing, Tsui-Ling Wong, Meng Lo, Lu Cheung, Edward Corbett, Lorraine Ho, Cheung-Lung Kai, Lori Shannon, Michael Tam, Bobby Yip, Sin-Yi Yip