This notorious Hong Kong Cat III cult classic is either one of the most offensive movies ever made—or a hilarious ‘feel-good’ romp made more relevant with an ongoing pandemic.
Dir. Herman Yau
1996 | Hong Kong | Crime/Horror | 98 mins | 1.85:1 | Cantonese & English
Banned in Singapore
Cast: Anthony Wong, Wan Yeung-Ming, Chan Miu-Ying, Lo Meng
Plot: A restaurant employee wanted for murder contracts Ebola by raping a woman in South Africa and starts an outbreak there and in Hong Kong when he returns home.
Source: Golden Harvest
Subject Matter: Very Disturbing / Mature
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Niche / Cult
I’ve heard about how nasty Ebola Syndrome is for quite some time, but never mustered up the courage to watch it.
The notorious Hong Kong Cat III cult classic by Herman Yau has long been in any list of the most disturbing movies ever made, but guess what, its relevance in an anything-goes pandemic year, plus an enticing review written by a cine-pal from another part of the world (shoutout to you, Rhythm Zaveri), made me pull the trigger.
Ebola Syndrome is offensive in every way—it’s very violent and gory, incredibly misogynistic and will have animal rights activists screaming. But most of all, it eschews any decent sense of morality.
Anthony Wong, in an admittedly stunning performance, plays Kai, a mentally-unsound man who escapes to South Africa after murdering a few people.
“What are you doing?”
“I am killing them, is that a problem?”
There, he works as a restaurant employee but becomes a carrier of the Ebola virus after casually raping a woman from a rural tribe in an out-of-town trip. Somehow surviving the disease and oblivious to anyone, Kai becomes a super-spreader.
One might see Yau’s work as a comedy in order to get through its nasty parts; in fact, if you don’t take it too seriously (it’s difficult to take it seriously, really), Ebola Syndrome is a hilarious ‘feel-good’ romp, an entertaining tonic for our times.
With COVID-19 remaining a threat, events in Yau’s film, particularly in the second half, are akin to a cautionary public service announcement. But a constantly spitting man who has the V is the least of your worries when he is capable of much more dastardly acts.