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DVD Review: ‘Zombie 108’

★☆☆☆☆

“What was with that naked zombie chick, dude?” Indeed, Running Foreigner #1, indeed. Billed as the very first Taiwanese zombie movie in history, Joe Chien’s apocalyptic-torture-porn-zombie flick Zombie 108 (2012) is as ramshackle as its group of survivors that race down the narrow alleyways of Taipei and has about as much direction and purpose as the marauding corpses that pursue them.

The plot (using the word in its loosest sense) sees several characters trapped in the city’s dangerous District 108 which is now the centre of a zombie-apocalypse. These include a stranded SWAT team, some gangsters, a young mother, two Americans, and a deformed and villainous recluse. Somehow, over the course of the opening act, the SWAT team and the gangsters team up and the deformed villain kidnaps the young mother adding her to a collection of other women he keeps as sexual slaves. And all of that’s before you throw in a random serial killer.

Zombie 108’s narrative contains so many inexplicable elements that it is almost impossible to fully engage with and when moments of emotion are then shoe-horned in to try to evoke a connection with the characters it makes their lack of depth all the more evident. It also contains none of the social commentary that has elevated previous entries into the genre, but as the movie progresses it does begin to take on the quality of a car crash or open wound; it’s horrific but hard to look away.

The zombies look okay but swing wildly from being fast and ferocious like in 28 Days Later (2002) to the slow lurching that we know and love, and the action contains framing and editing so fast and loose that it’s often hard to tell what’s going on. The uncomfortable torture-porn elements in the flat of the recluse seem to offer nothing whatsoever other than an excuse for the camera to linger on the nubile young women being paraded around naked; one scene involving a live octopus is particularly incomprehensible.

If you are a hardcore zombie aficionado then this will doubtless be of interest as a curiosity, the complete insanity of its storyline and decent zombie make-up might make up for it lacking in other departments. Ultimately though, Zombie 108 can be appositely summed up by comparing it to the monsters at its centre; unsavoury, frenetic, bloody, and lacking any of the direction or verve that might have been present before reanimation.

Ben Nicholson