Zombie Fight Club

Dir: Joe Chien
Star: Andy On, Jessica C, Michael Wong, Derek Tsang

Rarely has a film taken so long to deliver on the idea of its title, only to crash and burn when it eventually turns up. We had been watching this for an hour, and more or less given up on the premise as described. Then, with the suddenness of a car plunging from a multi-storey tenement, it suddenly turns into a scenario where humans are pitted against zombies for the entertainment of the elite. Admittedly, this is less zombie "fight club," [which could still make an interesting idea for a post-modern horror film] and closer to zombie Gladiator, or even a far East knockoff of the Woodbury storyline from The Walking Dead, right down to the "Governor" keeping his daughter alive as a zombie. Regardless, this is neither interesting nor well-staged. That's the bad news. The good? For that first hour, you get a really tight, excessive, hyper-active exercise in splattery excess (albeit a little over-dependent on CGI), which does a wonderful job of depicting a zombie outbreak's beginnings in a Taiwanese tower block. The scenario could be seen as a remake of Chien's previous genre entry, Zombie 108, and he has clearly learned a lot from that, because this hits the ground running and barely pauses for breath thereafter.

The cast of characters here include two residents (C, presumably aspiring to follow Maggie Q's footsteps as an actress-model-whatever, and Tsang), who trigger things off thanks to the delivery of a package of "bath salts" - and, I'm not talking bathroom products. Meanwhile, a SWAT team, under the corrupt leadership of Wong, mount a raid on another tenant that goes violently wrong, and this discounts the hordes of undead through which they have to escape. With the focus increasingly on On (if you see what I mean) as another member of the team, it feels like an infected version of The Raid, up until he (literally) makes an exit from the building. This triggers the drastic shift in tone mentioned above, when things inexplicably leap forward 12 months, with On now in the role of Spartacus. Rarely has any film felt more like two entirely separate ones, with the transition as abrupt as if you had changed the television channel. It doesn't work at all, and is a shame, since the early stages are arguably the best zombie film of the year. The final third, unfortunately, is far from that.

[December 2014]

The first rule of zombie fight club...
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