Zombie 108 (Cert 18)
1 Disc (Distributor Showbox Media) Running Time: 83 minutes approx.
An isolated virus is accidentally leaked from a lab and quickly spread across Taipei created an epidemic of flesh eating zombies. To help control the situation the Taipei army and a SWAT team is brought in to ward off the zombies but when they arrive in Ximending, a local crime gang, unaware of the zombie crisis, open fire on the police believing it to be a raid. But when the zombies arrive and attack the two enemies are forced to team up to survive.
After years of action, drama, romance, slice-of-life and whimsical arty films, Taiwan decides to enter into the horror market with their first ever zombie movie. Interestingly it was a publicly funded film as director Joe Chien asked for investors on Facebook and over nine-hundred people replied, eventually pushing the budget up to a reported NT$10 million (£214,000 approx / USD $332,000 approx) – chicken feed for most films but zombie films are low budget by nature anyway. As a result, the film has caused a bit of a stir among the international horror community, waiting with bated breath to see how the newcomers to the genre fare against their much more experienced peers. So, how do they do?
Following a quick sketchy, arty bit of exposition to explain the origins of the virus we skip to a car accident in a desolate main street involving a young mother Linda (Yvonne Yao) whose western husband is unconscious and their three year-old daughter Chloe (Chloe Lin), who has gone missing. Linda wanders into a nearby empty supermarket looking for Chloe. Instead she finds a horde of undead staff feeding on the carcass of a poor shopper. She manages to escape, finding Chloe wandering in the street, but with Linda’s husband also infected their only getaway being a taxicab which pulls up from nowhere.
Unfortunately, while the driver (director Joe Chien himself) is not a zombie he is just as dangerous. Elsewhere after a night of zombifying themselves all night at his club, with drugs, booze and other decadent activities, obese gang leader Big Boss (Morris Rong) and his men are forced to forge an uneasy truce in the name of survival with the remaining SWAT team members and a few additional faces in the form of a young lad and Japanese TV reporter.
Chien has clearly done his homework on zombie films since the basic framework of Zombie 108 is everything you have seen in every other zombie film; to be fair this is one genre where originality is the rarest of commodities. So, he adds a little twist of his own. Remember Linda and Chloe who got into that dodgy taxi? Well, the driver is a disfigured, pot bellied pervert who keeps naked women locked up in a cage in an underground room at his house (which is powered by a trio of zombified men turning a large wheel!!) where he regularly rapes and abuses them.
For the most part this has nothing to do with the main plot and the scenes appear randomly – presumably to break up the carnage of the flesh eaters, although these scenes of female deprivation and sexual violence are actually MORE unpleasant than the zombie stuff! As it happens, the pervert’s home becomes a convenient refuge for the diminishing group of survivors, apparently serving a purpose after all.
One has to wonder if Chien either had little confidence in his zombie efforts or his many investors wanted a role for their girlfriends/themselves hence the seemingly extraneous sex slave stuff. Or maybe he just likes the ladies. It won’t have escaped the notice of the viewers that almost ALL of the women are dressed in hot pants and tank tops (when they are dressed), even the lone female sniper in the SWAT team. Oh yes, her male colleagues get to wear bullet proof vests and protective gear, she gets to wear tight shorts and a vest!
And as if this blatant sexploitation wasn’t enough, Chien shoehorns in some equally bland supporting characters who appear out of nowhere with no real purpose, including a Japanese serial killer and an American (Sona Eyambe) formerly held captive by Big Boss, being there to show off his Parkour skills at the most inopportune moments. Another familiar face for keen eyed viewers is Dennis To (from the Ip Man biopics) who gets to kicks some zombie ass before becoming their dinner.
As a zombie flick the scenes involving the undead, for the most part, are very well done although they are actually not as violent as you might hope. Shot in a frantic manner they ensure maximum effect of the terror the survivors face. In comparison, the “non” zombie stuff is flat out disturbing and uncomfortable to watch, shot in an even more claustrophobic and surreal style that will make your flesh creep more than the carnage caused by the flesh eaters. What lets this film down is the poor script, unstructured story, undeveloped and unsympathetic main characters and the needless torture porn segments.
Horror films are a relatively niche genre at best, especially at the low budget end so Zombie 108 is best recommended for those who like their horror, cheap, nasty and as tasteless as possible. Otherwise, for Asian film fans, wait until something more indicative of the true class and magic of Taiwanese cinema – if it ever will – gets a UK DVD release.
Zombie Photo Gallery
Rating – **
Man In Black