Zombie 108 (2012)

Directed By: Joe Chein
Written By: Joe Chein
Starring: Yvonne Yao
  Morris Rong
  Chu Mu-yen
  Dennis To
Zombie 108

The beginning of Zombie 108 kicks off with some title credits and a little exposition that basically says:

New gene found

Scientist wins prize

Uh oh! Zombies!

The opening of Zombie 108 is very impressive; Linda (Yvonne Yao) wakes from a car crash and finds her husband unconscious and her daughter missing. Stepping into the street, she finds herself in middle of a zombie apocalypse! Surrounded by rubble, burning cars and utter devastation, we follow Linda as she searches for her daughter, which leads her through a desolated street, a supermarket full of zombies and into the car of a serial rapist…

We then randomly jump to one hundred and eight hours before this and dive into a dirty strip club filled with hookers, lesbian strippers and a big fat perverted drug lord covered in bling and naked women. It’s utterly utterly random.

N.B. despite the slate saying ‘108 hours before’… by the end you’ll actually realize they meant to write 108 hours LATER, which seriously seriously affects your enjoyment and understanding of the film. This is also doubly baffling when an occasional countdown appears on the screen; it is incredibly confused.

In fact ‘confused’ and ‘random’ are the two words that best describes Zombie 108 as it needlessly focuses on dozens of minor characters, from cops to gangsters to journalists to strippers to American tourists to kidnap victims of a meat-wearing serial rapist… it’s almost impossible to keep track or care about the collection of random characters. This is especially confusing because the film starts with a woman, her daughter and a bloke called Frank… who we don’t ever focus on!

At one point the crazed rapist guy (with meat on his face) decides to inject a woman with ‘zombie poison’… then proceeds to dance a live octopus across her naked chest. It’s utterly deranged but so bafflingly random and needless it only serves to disgust and confuse and adds nothing to the film.

In fact there are many many moments of baffling strangeness, from a free-running foreigner to a random Left 4 Dead Boomer-like zombie, with blood, green goo, CGI head shots and zombie slaves making electricity in a basement… it genuinely makes little sense.

Amongst all this insanity there are some fantastically disturbing moments, like when someone rips off the jaw of a zombie, but mostly it’s your traditional mix of hilarious shambling, mediocre special effects. Lots of violence, though. It’s certainly never boring!

Unfortunately Zombie 108 is also horribly exploitative towards women, with countless naked ladies running about – from strippers to sex slaves – and for no apparent reason. There is rape, forced fellatio, more rape, women being pissed on or women being horribly murdered or women being injected with zombie poison and molested by an octopus… It is ugly sexploitation and a throwback from an era I thought we’d buried forever. It really is needlessly horrible in places.

The failure of this film lands directly at the feet of Joe Chein, who directs and writes. Having acquired a reasonable budget from hundreds of investors, this is cited as the first Taiwanese zombie film and you’d hope for a better, more tasteful or iconic movie, but Chein’s direction is confused and stilted, which is such a shame considering the exciting settings and locations.

The two random Americans – presumably cast to make it more marketable to Western audiences – appear to improvise all of their dialogue, which is probably lucky for them as Joe Chein’s actual script (at least the translated subtitles, anyway) is truly truly abysmal. It is structurally insane and the dialogue is dull and cliché.

Somehow, however, Zombie 108 still isn’t totally awful. It’s kinetic, fast, crazy, bloody and brutal and for all its awful scripting and countless perversions, it’s strangely watchable.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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