Taiwanese director Joe Chien serves up a splatter smorgasbord of zombies and post-apocalyptic madness…
Joe Chien is nothing if not dedicated, following up his 2012 gore explosion Zombie 108 with (much) more of the same in the excellently-titled Zombie Fight Club. The Taiwanese helmer certainly sticks to his guns, and if anything throws in even more blood, viscera and questionable content in his continuing quest to shock and offend – not to mention baffle and bemuse, as the film is another crazed and near incoherent melting pot of barely connected ideas.
Set sometime in the near future in a large metropolis (presumably Taipei), the film kicks off in a rundown apartment block, where Jenny (Jessica C, Double Trouble) lives with her drug pusher boyfriend. Unfortunately, a batch of contaminated drugs starts a zombie epidemic, coinciding with the arrival of a SWAT team lead by the corrupt Michael Wong, who turns up at the building planning to rob one of the dealers. All hell breaks loose, and Jenny links up with decent cop Andy (Andy On, As the Light Goes Out, Special ID, Unbeatable) in a bid to escape, while a school teacher called Wu Ming (Jack Kao) tries to protect his daughter and her friends from the undead. Although Jenny and Andy do manage to survive, their future looks bleak, as the plague lays waste to the city and a barbaric organisation, run by the now evil Wu Ming takes over, forcing humans to fight zombies to the death for their entertainment.
Asian takes on the western style zombie genre are still relatively rare, as are full-on category III rated gore and sleaze epics these days, so Zombie Fight Club should be of some interest to genre fans, or at least to those who value schlocky and morally questionable thrills over logic and good taste. Joe Chien really is a cinematic madman, grabbing ideas from other films and wildly throwing them together with scant regard for sense – Rec and The Raid in particular are ransacked for scenes, though motifs and more are recognisable from a fair number of other films. As a result, the film is disjointed and frequently jarring, especially when it comes to the sudden shift into its apocalyptic final act, and some viewers might well be put off by its many plot holes and narrative lapses.
At the same time though, Chien clearly isn’t concerned by niceties like story or exposition, and he succeeds in his aim of keeping the film hurtling onwards at breakneck pace, never wasting time on questions which in fairness probably don’t need to be answered. The film also benefits from a cavalier ruthlessness when it comes offing characters, with several sympathetic possible protagonists being slaughtered in amusingly unexpected fashion. Given that the film features a large cast, this results in a mightily impressive body count, and though it’s inevitably hard to keep track of the living and the dead, there’s a determinedly homicidal air to the proceedings. Chien’s enthusiasm for the genre and his desire to keep notching things up is apparent throughout, and, for better or worse, the film feels very much it was made by a fan, for the fans.
Appropriately, Zombie Fight Club is an amazingly violent film, packed with non-stop brutality, never pausing for breath in its constant avalanche of carnage. While low budget and relying far too much on fake looking CGI blood and gore, it’s relentlessly creative in finding ways to dispatch and dismember the cast, and there are several standout and gruesomely imaginative money shots scattered throughout. The action scenes are all well-handled, and the choreography by Philip Ng (Once Upon A Time in Shanghai) is surprisingly solid, his one-on-one duel with Andy On being one of the film’s real highlights. Like Zombie 108, the film is dizzyingly random when it comes to tone, jumping suddenly from amusing rock ‘n’ roll horror excess to scenes of genuinely unpleasant sadism and nastiness. The film’s sexual content is similarly very questionable indeed, from its relatively harmless leering at the constantly underclad female cast early on, through to some appalling misogyny and rape – it’s this aspect of the film which, quite understandably, is most likely to prove a step too far for many.
Though hard to justify at times, Zombie Fight Club is exactly what Joe Chien clearly intended it to be – a sick, sleazy piece of grindhouse cinema turned up to the max, flying in the face of good taste and common cinematic sense. Likely to entertain, disgust and stupefy in equal measures, it’s an almost hypnotically incoherent and often incompetent hour and a half of blood-soaked insanity that some viewers will whole-heartedly embrace while others kick it back into the gutter whence it doubtless came.