We often see the lives of creative professionals as glamorous pursuits. In reality, while some of this certainly applies, the actual process of taking an idea and manifesting it into a completed work of art is….well, as exhausting as it is rewarding. Shuhang “Cici Liu” is as talented and resourceful a producer as they come and her work in creating the award–winning film The Club presents quantifiable proof of her talent. Garnering wins across the planet at such prestigious events as the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, Busan New Wave Film Festival, Cult Critic Movie Awards, and a nomination from the Cannes World Film Festival, The Club contains elements of comedy and horror in the most intoxicating manner. Every generation has its own reinvention of this genre and The Club, thanks in large part to Ms. Liu’s guiding hand as its executive producer and director, is a high-water mark for present day. The magnificent craftsmanship behind the scenes for The Club allows the somewhat hyperbolic premise of the story to surpass completely plausible and to in fact seem quite plausible. The Club not only seems believable; it leaves one thinking that it has already likely occurred. Ms. Liu and her collaborators on The Club transmit us into a place where laughter meets muted screams.
The Club is a perfectly balanced cocktail of humor, suspense, and horror. Desiring this tone is easy, manifesting it is a daunting challenge for any creative mind. Cici confirms that she conducted an immense amount of research concerning productions of a similar genre; as much to be aware of what to do as to define how to make The Club attain its own unique voice. From the writers to the casting process and far beyond, it was Cici’s firm intention that The Club present something original. The Club is a tale of young people conducting dangerous rituals. Their struggles lead them to the use of a dating app, taking a decidedly humorous turn alongside their menacing intentions. The idea of a “club” of young people conducting peculiar rituals, and the twist of using dating apps to recruit unwitting members, immediately captured the curiosity of any audience. It is engaging from the outset by offering something fresh and different from the norm. The comedic misunderstandings between Derek [the applicant] and the club members provides levity, while the suspenseful elements maintain engagement. Not since Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead has a film of this ilk crafted such an individual style while still satisfying both sides of the emotional spectrum in the genre.
The cast who portrays Raven, Jackie, Mac, and Derek in this film are magnetic in their performances. Cici notes that she understood the essential nature of this casting and character emphasis from the very beginning. She informs, “It was absolutely essential that the characters were well-developed and relatable. The audience could then empathize with their desires, disappointments, and dilemmas. The emotional connection with the characters allowed the story’s twists and turns to resonate on a personal level.” This is not so easy when the story revolves around a dark subject matter but this aspect is a huge part of what makes The Club so engaging. Cici adds, “The cast’s performances were outstanding, bringing the characters to life in a way that was both authentic and entertaining. The actors’ ability to convey a range of emotions, from comedic misunderstandings to the more serious consequences of Derek’s discovery, contributed significantly to the film’s resonance.” Also serving as the film’s director, Cici encouraged the actors to play their roles with a balance of seriousness and comedy, allowing the audience to both empathize with the club members’ dilemma and find humor in their situation. The unexpected turn of events keeps the audience engaged and emotionally invested in the characters’ predicament. During post-production, Cici again donned her producer hat to enhance the visual and auditory elements which exacerbated both the dark and light moments (emotionally) of the story and performances. In a word, vision is what Cici both contributed and materialized for The Club. It’s inconceivable to think that the essence which makes this film so special could have possibly come through any vehicle other than her.
Perhaps this blend of tragedy and humor that permeates The Club is partially due to the fact that it was created during the Covid-19 pandemic. A time when fear commanded that we find the comedy within the world’s circumstances in order to retain our sanity, this thread is woven into The Club. Headed by a female-led crew during a once-in-a-century health crisis, The Club is the product of talented artists who pushed themselves to create during a time when this was their means of holding onto reality. It’s a unique story fashioned during a unique time and these attributes have blended to create greatness.
Writer: Basil Thomson