Billed as the very first Taiwanese zombie movie, Zombie 108 (棄城Z-108) has generated lots of buzz among horror aficionados both at home and abroad. Nearly 900 people reportedly answered director Joe Chien’s (錢人豪) call to invest in the flick, whose budget clocked in at around NT$10 million. Later, two important players in the genre circuit, the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival and Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, picked the movie as part of their lineups this year.
With a more than adequate beginning that recalls many blockbusters of its kind, the self-proclaimed horror B-movie gets off to a good start. Yet the momentum soon dissipates as the movie struggles to flesh out its story.
The film starts with a familiar premise. There is a virus breakout, which is suggested in a sketchy opening sequence. And the next thing we know, Ximending becomes a zombie-infected neighborhood under quarantine. A SWAT team moves in to contain the situation in the seedy downtown area run by local gangs whose obese boss, played by Morris Rong (戎祥), the film’s producer, spends his days surrounded by cocaine and naked women. After a gunfight, the cops and gangsters form an uneasy alliance as they try to survive the flesh-eating undead.
Meanwhile, young mother Linda (Yvonne Yao, 姚采穎) escapes the undead horde with her daughter but falls prey to a pervert, played by director Chien himself, who holds women as sex slaves in his basement.
Eventually, the survivors turn up at the pervert‘s apartment. A Japanese serial killer is thrown in for good measure.
To director Chien’s credit, the zombie assault scenes are well played out. There is also a good deal of gore and blood, though not quite as exciting as many horror fans would expect.
Directed by: Joe Chien (錢人豪)
Starring: Yvonne Yao (姚采穎) as Linda, Morris Rong (戎祥) as gangster boss, Tai Pao (太保) as SWAT team leader, Joe Chien as pervert
Running time: 88 MINUTES
Language: Mandarin, English and Japanese with Chinese and English subtitles
Taiwan release: Today
The action sequences are enlivened with parkour and martial arts moves by Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Chu Mu-yen (朱木炎) and martial artist-turned-actor Dennis To (杜宇航) from Hong Kong, both playing SWAT cops. The idea of incorporating extreme sports and kung fu into the fight against zombies has great potential. But the film doesn’t take advantage of this and instead confines itself to a poorly written script revolving around a bevy of mostly dull characters.
The role of women in the zombie action is mostly utilized for torture porn sequences, and the casualness of the sexploitation is hard to stomach.
After making several unsuccessful genre flicks, including Button Man (鈕扣人) and Gangster Rock (混混天團), director Chien seems to be heading in the right direction, into B-movie territory, but he will need to deploy a lot more ingenuity than he shows in Zombie 108 to become a notable filmmaker of trashy movies.