Horror and comedy are two of the toughest genres in existence. It is difficult to scare a person or make them laugh because fear and humor are so subjective and diverse that they can’t be boiled down to a formula. I don’t want to make it seem like every other genre can rely on some kind of formula to make it work. But since sentiments like sadness, thrill, confusion, intrigue, etc., have a common threshold across the spectrum, they’re relatively easier to emulate on the screen. While it’s already an uphill task to terrify a person or tickle their funny bone, it probably turns into nothing short of a Herculean task when a movie has to do both. This year, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead and The Blackening have succeeded in doing exactly that. And now they’ve been joined by the Taiwanese film, Marry My Dead Body.
Wei-Hao Cheng’s Marry My Dead Body, which he has co-written with Lai Chih-liang and Sharon Wu, follows the homophobic and abusive cop Wu Ming-Han as he busts a case and gloats about it in front of his colleague and probable crush, Lin Tzu-Ching. In an attempt to cover up his discriminatory and violent behavior, he rushes into yet another drug bust. But due to his overconfidence, Ming-Han fails, and Tzu-Ching manages to nab the criminal. While Tzu-Ching takes the lawbreaker to the station, Ming-Han hangs back and collects evidence that is strewn all over the crime scene. He picks up a red envelope, thinking that it’s related to the case. However, it ends up being an elderly lady’s ploy to marry her deceased grandson’s ghost, Mao Pang-Yu, to an eligible bachelor. Ming-Han doesn’t believe in it and rejects this supernatural proposal. When he starts to become a magnet for unfortunate incidents, he realizes that he’ll be cursed with a miserable life if he doesn’t “marry” Pang-Yu. Ming-Han assumes that it’s all a stupid ritual. That said, when he starts to see the ghost of Pang-Yu, requesting Ming-Han to fulfill his wishes, he realizes that this is the real deal.
Wei-Hao Cheng, Lai Chih-liang, and Sharon Wu make it abundantly clear that Marry My Dead Body is a reaction to the 2019 legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Given how recent it is—which is a roundabout way of saying that it has taken an ungodly amount of time to legalize such a normal thing—the writers are aware of the fact that multiple generations of people are still against the LGBTQ+ community. Wu Ming-Han represents the millennials who have access to all kinds of technology, education, and other amenities, and yet they wear their bigotry on their sleeves. Pang-Yu’s father represents the boomers who refuse to be progressive because they are so used to heterosexuality that they think homosexuality will destroy the very fabric of society. Despite being much, much older than her son and her grandson, Pang-Yu’s grandma is the most progressive because she has the kind of perspective that comes with age and knows that people should be allowed to live the way they want to live in this limited period of time we have on this planet. Amidst all this, there’s Mao Pang-Yu, whose limbo-esque condition reflects the state of the gay community even though their basic rights have been upheld by the law.
Although the aforementioned character types and themes can seem serious, Marry My Dead Body never becomes preachy because it is centered around a murder investigation. The situations that Wu and Mao get into, their clash of ideologies, and their reactions to the revelations that they are not as smart as they think are all incidental in nature. But the conversations that emerge out of those altercations end up creating the emotional foundation of the narrative. As you must have figured out by now, the end goal of the film is to dispel homophobia. Wu Ming-Han’s transformation happens due to his forced proximity to Mao Pang-Yu, and Pang-Yu’s father’s transformation occurs due to the chasm he has created between himself and his son. The film isn’t saying that we have to do the same. Instead, it’s showing us that we have easier paths at our disposal that’ll make this society a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. We can seek out friends who are gay. We can visit gay bars. We can read about gay liberation movements. We can access media that features stories centered around the LGBTQ+ community. And, at the end of the day, we should choose to empathize and learn instead of lurking in the shadows of prejudice.
Coming to the visuals of Marry My Dead Body, the film’s most astounding element is its VFX and CGI work. There is a car chase in the first 20 minutes of the film, and there’s a hospital rush scene in the last 20 minutes of the film. As far as I can tell, they are completely CGI. There are some practical elements. But I am very sure that 99 percent of it is virtual in nature, and if you aren’t looking for it, you won’t notice it. If you have seen enough car chases, you’ll know that some of the camera angles and shot choices can’t be done physically. That’ll force you to study those scenes carefully, and you’ll be floored once you realize the truth. I usually complain about shooting inside a stationary car while surrounding it with green screens or bad rear projectors. Even that is seamless in this movie, and the trick is the reflections on the “windows” and “windshield.” I’ve put those words in quotes because I don’t think they are practical, and it’s a visual effect, hence the perfect blending with the physical stuff. Everything about Mao’s ghostliness is a little more obvious. I think they put Po-Hung Lin on a hoverboard for the mid shots to make it look like he’s floating, and then recreated his legs with CGI for the wide shots to show that he’s “floating.” It’s all neat, is what I am saying.
Marry My Dead The body looks fantastic from start to finish. I don’t know why that has become a rarity. I have grown up watching Edgar Wright’s horror comedies and become used to the notion that films from this subgenre can look brilliant. But, over the years, filmmakers haven’t treated their own material properly, thereby making the movies look as frivolous as the subject matter. Thankfully, DOP Chen Chi Wen, production designers Y.C. Kuo and Chen Hsuan Shao, editor Chen Chun Hung, director Wei-Hao Cheng, and the rest of the team aren’t cut from the same cloth. They ensure that every frame looks immaculate. They keep alternating between physical humor and verbal jokes without letting them overlap and hurt each other’s impact. As mentioned before, the action is fresh, energetic, and usually funny. The sound department is great. However, during certain scenes, the punches, kicks, or slamming sounds did feel a little off. It can be a creative choice or an issue in the sound mixing. Since it does hamper the viewing experience, I think it’s important to point it out. Apart from that (and the fat jokes, which aren’t countered like the gay jokes), I have to say that the film is really well made.
Greg Han Hsu and Po-Hung Lin have delivered the best performances of the year. Their energies are so different, and the way their personalities start to rub off on each other as the film progresses is undoubtedly palpable. Their angry conversations had me in splits because they do seem like an old married couple. And the fact that they never address it makes it all the more wholesome. That said, when Hsu and Lin have to attack your tear ducts, they do not show any restraint. They truly tug at your heart strings, and before you realize it, you’ll find yourself in a puddle of your own tears. Gingle Wang is splendid. She smartly plays into the stereotype that she is “just a pretty face” and essentially steals the show. Her scenes with Greg Han Hsu are amazing. Tsun-Hua Tou doesn’t have a lot of screen time. He gets to flex his acting chops at the tail end of the film, and he absolutely crushes it. That final scene should be hand delivered to every homophobic parent. Everyone on the police team is brilliant, with Nien-Hsien Ma and Yen-Tso Chen getting a lot of the spotlight. Every single goon that appears on the screen, even if it’s for a second, knocks it out of the park. Therefore, a loud round of applause should go out to casting director Lucy Chen.
Horror comedies where a ghost solves their own murder aren’t new. There’s Aayushkalam, Hello Brother, Ghost, Heart Condition, Chamatkar, The Invisible, and that episode of Roar featuring Alison Brie and Hugh Dancy. So, what makes Marry My Dead Body so special? Well, the aforementioned titles were either too serious, or they were trying too hard to be funny. Marry My Dead Body’s sense of tone is perfect. It knows when it has to slow things down and prioritize its narrative and when it has to inject some momentum and rile things up. The performances from the cast are great. Wei-Hao Cheng’s film looks and sounds incredible. In addition to all that, the movie is a major win for gay representation. What else can you possibly ask for? Anyway, what you have read is only my opinion. Please watch Marry My Dead Body on Netflix, and once you are done forming your own opinion, feel free to share it with us.