Zombie Fight Club (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Altitude Film Distribution) Running Time: 91 minutes approx.
In 2012 Taiwanese actor-director Joe Chien made the island’s first ever horror movie with his publicly funded zombie flick Zombie 108, earning him some international recognition. Chien naturally revisits the genre to have another shot at trying to have horror fans bring up their late night kebabs!
Zombie Fight Club is a partially misleading title as it is only relevant to the third act, the first two acts being very similar to its predecessor. The setting is a grimy apartment block in near future Tai-Pei prior to the outbreak of a deadly virus that would ravage the city. Jenny (Jessica C) shares a flat with her boyfriend David (Derek Tsang) who are descended upon by David’s rapper mate Tiger (MC HotDog) and a bevy of half-naked babes for a party. While Tiger bonks his way through his harem one of them reacts badly to some contaminated pills David had delivered (by sluttily dressed courier Sharon Hsu) turning her and her friends into flesh eating beasts.
Meanwhile a SWAT team lead by Captain Ma (Michael Wong) descends upon the high rise to arrest drug dealer Fung (Terence Yin) and his partner (Heng-yin Chou) but Ma instead has other plans for the money Fung has accrued. One of his team Andy (Andy On) still has his scruples and refuses to be part of this shady deal, so, when the zombies still spilling out into the corridors of the apartment block he is left to fend for himself.
The Raid meets Zombie 108 observations are valid for the first part of this film, with the half-naked women, SWAT team involvement and the confined space of an apartment block. However quite inexplicably the third act is set one year later in a post apocalyptic Tai-Pei where the surviving humans are imprisoned underground and are forced to fight in gladiatorial combat against the zombie for the pleasure of the rich.
Quite the startling contrast to the first part of the film and one which brings with it a nastier and more lascivious side along with a creepy subplot we are ill-prepared for due to the poor character building. While we shouldn’t expect this film to be the Citizen Kane of the zombie genre, there is no excuse for not fleshing out any character that will have a significant impact later on.
In this case it is schoolteacher Wu Ming (Jack Kao), who is holding a birthday party for his (skimpily attired) teenage daughter Nana (Abby Fung) and her (skimpily attired) friends, including Yiyi (Una) who has a crush on Wu Ming. Fleeing the zombie rampage Ma and a SWAT member seek shelter in Wu Ming’s flat where they bully their way into getting some service from the girls (as you do) but the SWAT guy has been bitten, spreading the infection there. Only Wu Ming and Yiyi survive but the doting father has plans for his shy admirer.
As disturbing as this development is, it could have made for a truly unsettling horror in its own right which begs the question why Chien didn’t save this for another film. Instead we have a time hop and a total change of scenario and this dark development with little reason given, not in the last the total personality make over for Wu Ming. Jack Kao is superb in essaying both sides of this complex man but demand for knowing what makes him tick overwhelms any acceptance of his new persona.
Suffering a similar fate is drug dealer Fung who, despite his pernicious vocation and his unkempt appearance is a decent man who dotes on his lady. There is clearly more to him and his relationship which is touched upon in a rather poignant and heartbreakingly tender moment but again, it is all for naught as Fung is essentially treated as a disposable supporting player.
The actual presentation of this film as far as production values go suggests that Chien had big ambitions for it, which makes his lack of attention to the story and script quite an egregious oversight. On the one hand, the zombies are nightmarishly hideous and skin crawling as you might expect and some meet some truly gruesome ends; on the other the use of CGI blood and zombie faces exposes the lack of budget where practical effects would have not only sufficed but have been an improvement.
But Chien seems mostly intent on delivering base popcorn gore hence the gratuitous fan service, nudity and needles dominatrix based perversions in the final act. Chien’s unpleasant treatment of women in Zombie 108 raised some concerns so in response he seems to have increased the overt misogynistic attitudes here. With Fung’s lady being the only one closest to having a backbone, the women are presented as half naked playthings.
To his credit Chien does know how to create tension and a palpable sense of nerve shredding creepiness, with a few scenes to make the hardened horror viewer squirm. Similarly the action/fight scenes are hard hitting and well-choreographed affairs both in the apartment block and the underground arena, where Andy On gets to show what he can do against the film’s action director Philip Ng.
Don’t expect any acting awards for this film especially from the ladies – Jessica C may be a good looking lass who can fill a bra (like the others) but she can’t (nor they) act for toffees; just as well she is Andy On’s girlfriend! It seems a shame that both Terence Yin and jack Kao deliver worthy performances which feel wasted on what is essentially blood and boobs fest.
Look beneath the gore and shameless prurience and there are two interesting stories that could have made two good interesting films, instead Zombie Fight Club is an uneven and unfocused conflation of these ideas. As a straight up trashy gore flick it will have an audience but much of its content will prove unsettling for a different reason for some to be deemed entertaining.
Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital
Mandarin 2.0 Stereo
Rating – ** ½
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