TIFF 2020: Get the Hell Out (2020)

Directed by: I-Fan Wang. Starring: Megan Lai, Bruce Hang, Chung-wang Wang. Runtime: 1h 36 min. Released: This film premiered as a part of the Midnight Madness programme at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2020.

The set-up for Get the Hell Out is relatively simple, as its main action hero Hsiung Ying-Ying (Megan Lai)  has to resign from her seat in parliament after using martial arts to fight the media. She blames her love-struck bodyguard Wang You-Wei (Bruce Hang) and makes him run for parliament as her puppet, where she feeds him lines during his campaign. She doesn’t support a chemical plant in the nearby St. Arian’s which she believes is responsible for creating the rabies virus. This all kicks off with a parliament meeting about the chemical plant, where the MPs turn into zombies – or rabies idiots, as Hsiung would dub them – and our heroes have to fight to Get the Hell Out.

The introduction to this film is great as Hsiung lines up her plans and why she is in parliament, which all has to do with the chemical plant and learning about that aspect of her as a character is solid. It’s also great how director I-Fan Wang – in his feature debut – satirizes the fights that break out in Parliament, though his version has more gore and more biting.

It takes some time to get into the zombie action as after the intro it backtracks six months before the zombie outbreak and we learn more about the political campaign than we necessarily needed to, as it gears towards the zombie attack. Though, this does allow the film to show some martial arts moments before that’s combined with the zombie genre later in the film.

Other downfalls are a cliched caricature of a villain in MP Li Kio Chung (Chung-wang Wang), who is Hsiung’s main opposition from the beginning of the film and he’s much worse during this zombie invasion. He does so many things that will always annoy me about villains, but he’s played well by Chung-wang Wang. He’s decked out in a pink suit and the way he commands a crowd and the film’s visual style in the early Parliament scenes made me think of an Asian game show in how crazy it seems.

Bruce Hang in Get the Hell Out. (Photo courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival.)

This film’s satire and martial arts being combined with the zombie genre is what helps Get the Hell Out have a unique feel despite some very familiar character beats and zombie tropes that I-Fan Wang puts a spin on. I enjoyed a lot of this film’s zombie action (this is billed as horror but is never scary), though as my first “gonzo” Asian film, its high energy approach took a bit of getting used to. It’s admittedly draining by the end of the film, though there is some good stuff here.

I-Fan Wang shows his great style in one memorable scene where the characters learn a zombie weakness and everyone starts to work together. This scene is a blast. There’s so much of this film that would play well in front of a Midnight Madness crowd at TIFF that it felt strange watching it on my own in my basement, especially during fourth-wall-breaking moments where the audience is told to applaud, as well as a very brief sing-a-long prompt. These moments are funny, but they’d be way better with a crowd. So many scenes here feel designed to be crowd pleasing moments that the film tries too hard to make an impression. That’s the case in a sequence near the end where a scene is too ridiculous. The whole film’s wild, but this scene feels like a stretch.

Even in this scene, I-Fan Wang brings a clever aspect that made me smile even if the scene didn’t work as a whole. The film made me laugh in a lot of places and I liked the gore and action. His style works at times, from the animations introducing characters to the music he uses to his advantage throughout. He has a talented cast, as well, with two fun performances from Megan Lai and Bruce Hang, who have a strong chemistry. I didn’t love every minute of Get the Hell Out, but it’s a strangely entertaining film, at least when the carnage starts.

Score: 63/100

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