The PR blurb for Joe Chein's Zombie 108 proudly proclaims that it is Taiwan's first ever zombie movie. Chein's call out for investors, which led to 900 people crowd funding the movie, is also foremost in the movie's advertising campaign. As a lifelong lover of horror movies and independently minded film-makers, both of these points are worthy of congratulations to my mind.

The downside to this is that Zombie 108 is an unmitigated disaster of a movie, so much so in fact that if I were one of the 900 investors I would be tempted to ask for my money back, or have my name removed from the credits at the very least. Rarely have I found myself so desperate for a movie to end, so inanely presented and executed is Chein's tale of an escaped virus turning the majority of the citizens of District 108 into flesh hungry zombies.

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Amongst the many pitfalls of Zombie 108, the simplicity of its narrative is not one of them, as many of the finest undead movies, be they serious – Night of the Living Dead – or comedic – The Return of the Living Dead – thrive specifically because of their simple storylines. Chein's major error is in throwing everything including the kitchen sink, a squid, a torture porn sub-plot, a serial killer sub-plot and a multitude of minor characters into the mix, leaving the finished movie a confused, erratic and wholly unsatisfactory experience.

Chein is also one of the multitude of contemporary directors who seem to believe that allowing a shot to remain onscreen for more than a couple of seconds would open him up to accusations of being an artist. This is even flagged up within the narrative as a character remarks on how a now zombiefied film-maker was prone to making slow moving, pretentious movies. The tongue may be firmly in rotting cheek, but the dispiriting lack of invention, gumption, guile or wit on show in Chein's own movie renders the joke inadmissible as evidence.

A pounding soundtrack, deeply misogynistic representation of females, instantly forgettable dialogue and characters and the introduction of a flashback that is never resolved leave Zombie 108 as little more than amateurishly presented, disposable fodder for adolescents still in thrall to excessive gore and exposed breasts. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite partial to both of those elements, but I do like them to be surrounded by interesting characters and scenarios, even in the most gonzo of horror movies.

The difference between, say, Peter Jackson's Braindead and Chein's Zombie 108 is that the former knew that a tight focus on a central character was paramount amidst such chaotic action, whereas the latter introduces and discards its players with little or no regard for the viewer. Half baked sub-plots, snatches of back story and crushingly awkward 'comedy' moments make what is anarchic and high octane in appearance perversely leaden and stupefyingly boring in consumption.

Like the stinking, mindless corpse of one of its undead hordes, Zombie 108 wears its fetid inanity on its sleeve, rotten of mind, body and soul. Chein and his cast may have had fun making the movie, but there's absolutely no enjoyment to be had in suffering its excruciatingly long eighty eight minute running time.

Reviewed on: 28 Jul 2012
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A virus gets loose in Taipei Army and SWAT teams oversee evacuation but in Ximending the gangs don't...

Director: Joe Chein

Writer: Joe Chien

Starring: Morris Rong, Yvonne Yao, Sona Eyambe, Josh-Hiyakawa Wilson, Tia Bo, Chien Jen Hao, Jack Kao, Kevin Lee, Chloe Lin, Po Tai, Yu-Hang To, Lou Xue Xian, Chu Mu Yen

Year: 2012

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: Taiwan


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