Film genres, and particularly subgenres, often move in and out of fashion as their popularity rises and wanes. On the monster front we’ve had endless and varied aspects of the vampire film, with the odd werewolf added to create variation (yes, Twilight (2008), that is a reference), and recent years have seen the re-emergence and enormous popularity of the zombie film. This trend has found a new home, in Taiwan.
The makers of Zombie 108 are keen to point out what they hope will be the launch of a film genre that has so far been denied Taiwan, hopefully creating enthusiasm amongst the local genre aficionados. They are also keen to emphasise the massive cast employed on the film, a huge number, although most were not actors but zombie extras who generally spent large portions of screen time drenched in entrails, munching on bodies and stumbling around in the manner of the dead seeking a new bite.
Linda (Yvonne Yao) is stuck in the city, seeking to locate her daughter Chloe (Chloe Lin) so that the two of them can find somewhere safe. A virus has emerged recently, one that changes the living into the flesh eating dead, and there are zombies running amuck with no qualms about who they munch on. When the pair finally find someone who can apparently help them, they are captured and imprisoned by the grotesque sadistic Pervert (Chien Jen Hao) who has a whole bunch of unfortunates in his dungeon-like basement and he fully intends to assault them. Meanwhile packs of the living dead continue to seek mastication of mankind. In Ximan district the problem has reached such crises levels that a SWAT team are needed to re-mortify the reanimated. They are not alone in their desire to survive the onslaught of the dead, so even the local criminals, strip club owners and other general deviants are eager to join forces to survive the relentless onslaught. But bullets and weaponry are limited and those already dead can take an awful lot of killing.
So how do the zombies fare? In many ways this is pretty much as you would expect from a genre film, the dead often grouping together for lavish pickings of victims’ flesh and chasing our living characters who have to seek shelter of some sort, even at one point (with a satirical look at the film industry) in a cinema. The curse of the zombies affects the living via small wounds or even, in the worst case scenarios, through deliberate injection of the virus that has caused the uprising in the first place. This plot device is the core behind some of the activities of the film’s most unpleasant and disgraceful characters, the Pervert, who uses this whole situation as a way of furthering his own sadistic pleasures. His brutal persona is intended to emphasise that humans can be just as gruesome as the monsters that are the film’s obvious foes, and that even the living cannot be trusted, but his character turns what would be an enjoyable zombie romp into something that becomes more distasteful and offensive.
In the end Zombie 108 is schlocky exploitational cinema that (aside from the Pervert character subplot) entertains and keeps plenty of body parts on-screen. It is precisely what it sets out to be – gory entertainment that does not outlive its welcome. Those with an artistic or intellectual interest need not bother but those seeking masses of denizens eating the living know where to go.