Zombie Fight Club Movie Review
Written by Daniel Benson
Released by Altitude Film Distribution
Written and directed by Joe Chien
2014, 95 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 31st August 2015
Andy On as Andy
Jessica Cambensy as Jenny
Michael Wong as Captain Ma
Terence Yin as Bro Fung
Jack Kao as Wu Ming
Han Chang as Li Zei
Abby Fung as Nana
It's The Raid meets Dawn of the Dead in this ridiculously over-the-top zombie action-fest where the blood flies as often as the fists and feet. The first rule of Zombie Fight Club? Don't get bitten.
As a SWAT team gets ready to go and clean up a crime-ridden tower block, the criminals within its walls are trying a new strain of bath salts (the drug, not the relaxing hot water additive) from LA that turns its users into, you guessed it, the living dead. Queue multiple gory action scenes between gangsters, zombies, and SWAT team members in equal measure.
This Taiwanese mish-mash of genres comes from Joe Chien, writer and director of 2012’s Zombie 108, itself billed as ‘the first Taiwanese zombie movie’ on release. And it seems in the three years since, Chien hasn’t particularly changed his approach to filmmaking, especially when it comes to the abuse of his female characters.
Tonally, Zombie Fight Club is all over the place, flip-flopping between balls-to-the-wall action, goofy slapstick and, most worryingly, misogyny and rape. While the vast majority of Chien’s male characters are two-dimensional, his female ones are little more than set decoration. Almost exclusively portrayed as helpless and shrieking, the ladies of Zombie Fight Club are frequently subjected to sexual abuse and rape for no reason other than to have it in the film.
If the tone is uneven, then the narrative trumps it by being almost completely random. The story in the tower block sort of follows one of the SWAT team, the closest the film has to a central protagonist. Frequently the attention will veer off onto incidental characters and follow them for a short while before their inevitable demise, almost like a segment of an anthology, but without any point to the mini-story.
Then, at one hour in, something weird happens. Chien clearly ran out of ideas for making Dredd/The Raid with zombies and wraps up the tower-block story by having its heroes drive out through the side of the tower three floors up in a car that had been in storage in someone’s apartment (don’t ask). From this point the timeline skips forward one year to a dystopian future where the titular Zombie Fight Club is a thing. Civilisation has moved underground to escape the living dead and presiding over this subculture is a vicious dictator, who was previously a timid schoolteacher in the first part of the film.
It’s like Chien has a bunch of ideas floating around in his head and just tries to get them all out into one movie without actually considering whether they’ll work. When it’s good, it’s great, gory fun, but if he’d just lose all the casual rape (and it is very casual, dropped in with no advancement of the story), the whole thing would sit a lot better. As it stands, maybe we should stick to the first rule of Fight Club and just not talk about it.