Opinion - Scorsese and Coppola Vs. the MCU: Are we focusing on the wrong argument?
October 25, 2019
Nuking The Cat
Last Refuge of the Sensible Nerd
Impulse Buy Theater Presents A Kung Fu Concussion Discussion - Zombie Fight Club
April 4, 2017
Sorry for the long headline, but it looks like we’ve got ourselves a bit of a crossover here with our latest movie review: Zombie Fight Club.
Just from the title alone, you're thinking one of two things...either we've become so oversaturated with zombie movies that we're inserting them into films that have come before (after all, there is a Pride & Prejudice & Zombies) or you're convinced that this might be the greatest film idea ever.
After watching the movie, if I were to tell you that the movie doesn't stop there...that it incorporates some of the greatest hits of exploitation film in general: part kung fu action film, part gory zombie movie, sprinkle in some dashes of women-in-prison and future apocalypse/dystopia...and yes, this should be the greatest movie ever put forth on the silver screen. Well, at least to those so inclined to this sort of fare. [Yeah, this isn't going to be up for any sort of Academy consideration any time soon. - Ed.] So, is this indeed the BEST MOVIE EVAR???
Everything is there in theory, but the film fails to live up to the sum of its parts.
The opening two-thirds of the film are set in an apartment building in Taipei...which will end up being the focal point for kicking off the zombie apocalypse in the Far East...but we'll get to that. There's plenty going on in this building...but we open with two things: what appears to be a drug raid (which may or may not be on the up and up) and, surprisingly unrelated, a business man being held for ransom. The story branches out even further to include a drug deal (again unrelated to the aforementioned raid) that ends up involving a rapper celebrating the release of his first album and a birthday party for a professor's daughter. You might be asking yourself how the fuck do zombies factor into what already seems to be a pretty damn crowded movie? That's where the story with the drug deal and the rapper comes in. You see, his friend gets a delivery of "bath salts" from an American relative. Remember all the news and stuff surrounding bath salts a few years ago, people going batshit crazy and biting other people? Yeah, those bath salts. Well, this guy is about to get busy with his girlfriend when said rapper decides to crash with his brother and four groupies in tow. In true gangsta style, [How the hell would you know? - Ed.] our rapper here is about to have a ménage-a-four and at least one of the girls decides to sample the 'free dessert'. Cue the zombie apocalypse in 5...4...3... The fun doesn't stay confined to one apartment though, no...sure enough our zombies start spilling out into the other stories we mentioned as well as a nearby Halloween party (because OF COURSE they would)...and there you go, zombie apocalypse.
In the span of the first 15 minutes of this movie, you've already got nudity, sex, kung fu action, gunplay and gore...both with and without zombies. But also within that first 15 minutes, we very quickly discover why this will not be the epic exploitation masterpiece that it had every chance of becoming: CGI gore. That's not to say there are no practical effects or make up...there are...but most of the blood spatter is VERY definitely CG and the zombie effects that have computer enhancement, particularly when the aforementioned rapper takes on his zombie form, they don't look much better than a Playsation 2 cutscene. All of this serves to take away a level of viscera that one would expect in a film like this and as such, most reactions to what should be some impressive bits of gore are just...meh. That sucks...because if this sort of film were in the hands of one of the old masters, like, say, Tom Savini, again, it would have had a much better chance of living up to being something amazing.
To the film's credit, it takes its time developing the numerous characters...so while they still tend to fall into some standard character types and tropes, you can't really call them two-dimensional. Maybe 2.5? But it is this use of time that will ultimately give rise to my other biggest problem with the film. You see, Zombie Fight Club only has a 95 minute running time...and two-thirds of that is taken up setting up the premise and the characters. We never truly get into the whole Zombie Fight Club thing until the last half hour of the film. And even the way the movie gets us there is a cheap narrative device: "One Year Later..." Ugh. It's almost like they completely removed a second act to the film just to hurry up and get us to the end. Look, they spent nearly a full hour setting up the characters and the zombie apocalypse but we're given absolutely nothing to explain why the characters are where they are as we get into the closing 30 minutes. I'd liken this to a scenario where you're driving home with an awesome new car from the dealership when, suddenly, you hit a pothole and blow out a tire. No, it's not the end of the world and for the most part the new car is perfectly fine, but it still takes a shit on what should've been a great day. And that's what the narrative jump does here: it inserts a hiccup in the narrative flow that doesn't completely ruin the movie, but it does enough damage to be annoying...tainting a film that should have been enjoyable with the tinge of disappointment that there's something irritatingly missing.
Once Zombie Fight Club kicks into its post-apocalyptic final act, it makes good on its title...and this is where we get our zombie pit-fighting as well as women-in-prison elements. However, this segment isn't entirely free from disappointment either. You'll see in the movie poster that we've got a slender yet curvy woman in a nicely clingy black leather outfit with two machettes...you know, hinting that we should have a strong female protagonist emerging from this mess...right? NOPE. Said outfit is never seen in the film, instead, this character is seen mostly in her underwear (which in and of itself isn't such a terrible thing) and in varying states of crying, terror, panic or so forth. I guess I was hoping more for the Barbara from the 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake and ended up getting the original Barbara. Pity.
I'll admit, a lot of this review seems negative and I don't mean it to be that way. The film has a lot going for it. It has some rich characters and really takes the time to establish them in their world. It definitely calls "BINGO!" on the exploitation film checklist and hits the three B's (blood, beasts and breasts) within the first 10-15 minutes, which is outstanding! But the not-ready-for-prime-time CGI effects, the minimizing of practical effects and what feels to be a completely missing second act does hang a cloud of disappointment over the film. All that being said, it's definitely worth checking out...just maybe as a rental.