Zombie Fight Club (Shi Cheng)
Director/Screenplay – Joe Chien, Action Director – Philip Ng, Producers – Gordon Chan, Paul Cheng & Paco Wong, Photography – Yu-Tang Lin, Music – Wei Chun Chen, Visual Effects – Digimax, Inc (Supervisor – Akira Lee), Makeup Effects – Special Makeup FX Studio, Production Design – Six Doors Art Production. Production Company – Sun Entertainment Culture/Six Doors Film Productions Limited
Jessica C [Cambensy] (Jenny), Andy On (Andy), Jack Kao (Wu Ming), Michael Wong (Captain Ma), Abby Fung (Nana), Derek Tsang (David), MC Hot Dog (Tiger), Paoming Ku (Uncle Liang), Una (Yiyi), KB (Bro Adi), MJ116 Muta (Big B), Candy Yuen (Female Jailer Leader), Sharon Hsu (Female Courier), Amber Chen (Lina), Bella Cheng (GiGi), Chi Hung Ning (Mr B), Terence Yin (Bro Fung)
Various people are going about their day in a Taipei apartment building when police burst in on a raid. The captain busts the drug dealers but this results in a shootout as he tries to get away with a stash of money. At the same time, there is an outbreak of zombies all around them. As the dead overrun the building and the freshly killed join their ranks, the remaining survivors are forced into a brutal and blood-drenched fight for survival. One year later, Wu Ming, a professor whose daughter was killed in the attack on the apartment has become a warlord in the ruins of the city. He keeps his daughter’s zombified body caged up and lovingly tends it. He also runs a tournament in which the living are imprisoned and made to fight against zombies in an arena.
One of the fascinating things about the massive proliferation of the zombie film, particularly throughout the 2000s and 2010s, is seeing how much it has spread around the world and the ways each culture has added or interpreted the theme. So far we’ve had zombie films from Italy – a whole heap of them made during the 1980s, Hong Kong – Bio-Zombies (2000), Ireland – Dead Meat (2004) and Boys Eats Girl (2005), Spain – [Rec] (2007) and sequels, Norway – Dead Snow (2009) and sequel, France – The Horde (2009), Japan – Big Tits Zombie (2010), Cuba – Juan of the Dead (2011), Mexico – Halley (2012), New Zealand – I Survived a Zombie Holocaust (2014), Australia – Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014) and Me and My Mates vs. the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Germany – Bunker of the Dead (2015), Austria – Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies (2016) and South Korea – Train to Busan (2016), among others. Zombie Fight Club is the first ever incidence I have come across of a zombie film from Taiwan.
The title Zombie Fight Club catches your attention. The filmmakers have clearly sought to spoof David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999) but your mind boggles at how anybody could possibly turn Chuck Palaniak’s work about male aggression, secret pugilism clubs, anti-consumer anarchist manifestos and split personality into a zombie film. Needless to say, such an idea proves too challenging for Zombie Fight Club. (In fact, you get the impression that the title is something that was slapped on the film by the English-language distributor). It is also misleading as there are no fight clubs throughout – the nearest we get is during the last third of the film where in the aftermath of society’s collapse Jack Kao keeps survivors as prisoners and pits them in hand-to-hand combat against zombies in an arena for the amusement of audiences. However, it does seem a stretch between the underground brawling clubs among willing participants we had in Fincher’s film and all-out gladiatorial combat involving unwilling prisoners we have here.
If there is any film that Zombie Fight Club draws on for inspiration it is not Fight Club so much as it is The Raid: Redemption (2011). Like The Raid, the bulk of the film takes place in an apartment building and consists of a furious fight for survival. Here The Raid‘s one cop against hordes of heavily armed gang members has been replaced by human survivors against zombie hordes. It should be noted that the same basic idea also formed the basis of the abovementioned French The Horde.
Zombie Fight Club is rather entertaining. Director Joe Chien clearly has a love for the genre and launches into the film with a great deal of relish and energy. He is using digital gore but manages to make it work for him. There are some well-done effects – MC Hot Dog killing MJ116 Muta with a meat grinder impaled in the head; or one character who turns up with his entire chest and stomach cavity transformed into a snapping set of jaws. The film probably didn’t need the grafted on fight club scenes during the last third – it makes a 95 minute film longer than you it should be – when the film’s natural resolution felt like it should have been during the battle among the survivors in the apartment building.