Friday, 10 August 2012

Zombie 108 (Z-108)

ZOMBIE 108 (Z-108) **

Funded by 900 genre fans and causing a big buzz within the horror scene, upcoming director Joe Chein delivers a pulsating, blood-gushing zombie flick.

A scientific experiment goes wrong and a virus is set loose in Taipei, turning the city’s people into ravenous zombies. While the Army and SWAT teams oversee evacuation, the neighbourhood Ximending’s gang- unaware of the chaos unfolding around them- try and disrupt their operations. But when they too come under zombie attack, the police and gang form an unlikely alliance for their best chance of survival.

It certainly isn’t an original storyline- something that perhaps would have saved it from being ‘just another zombie film.’ With obvious influences from the highly successful 28 days later franchise evident in the opening scene of rampage and disorder, a large proportion of the narrative feels in some way or another ‘borrowed.’ But what separates it from the countless number of zombie movies Chein has evidently watched and been openly influenced by, is the inclusion of a sideline plot. Whereas in zombie or post-apocalyptic movies we typically follow one group of strangers for the duration of the movie with individuals being picked off one by one until only the hero or heroine remains, Z-108 creates multiple characters stuck in different situations, stemming the narrative until they come together only towards the end. While the police and gangs are fighting off zombies and trying to prevent the virus from spreading to each other, we also see Linda (Yvonne Yao) and her daughter Chloe (Chloe Lin) being kidnapped and tortured by a mad-man making the most of the end-of-the-world crisis. Using captured zombies for manual labour to power the electricity in his home, and taking advantage of the helplessness of others and lack of police enforcement to kidnap, rape and murder women, the sociopath pervert (Chien Jen Hao) certainly broadens the scope of extreme shock and is a temporary distraction from the dull familiarity of the zombie led design.

What eastern directors, and Chein alike, seem to do so well is to take a step back now and again- giving the audience a necessary breather from the adrenalin pumping zombie action- and reflect on the emotions of the characters. A memorable example is when the gang leader or ‘big boss’ asks to kill his wife as she turns into a ravenous, blood spitting subhuman before him. The continually beating grunge/garage music which is likely to trigger a headache is replaced by a slower, more classical sound and the camera momentarily stops jumping around and trying to keep up with the pace of its soundtrack.

Die-hard genre fans have much to appreciate in the way of gruesome and grisly gore. With several exploding zombie heads, a mangled torso crawling along the floor and a body axed slowly to death, with a bit of martial arts thrown in, prepare for 90 minutes of stomach-churning as violence and bloodshed is not spared. Despite an impressive range of zombie effects (though neon yellow eyes and faces half mutilated as soon as they turn are perhaps a bit farfetched), the zombies themselves are run of the mill and the transformations are unimpressively sudden. Most of the characters ‘turn’ and there aren’t any that you can really cheer for (except perhaps the kidnapped woman who, when she exerts her revenge with an axe to the perverts limp body, you cant help but feel pleased for her.) The acting is acceptable but nothing exceptional, the generic foreigner confronting a naked zombie with, “you can’t have my number, bitch.”

A zombie movie that certainly doesn’t stand out from the rest, and by no means a zombie classic that can be compared to the likes of Romero’s work. Although a decent first attempt to parallel the successful, spine-chilling horror genre films of Japan, new-kid-on-the-block Taiwan haven’t quite achieved the necessary level for a rivalry with this movie. But with the execution of the first zombie movie in the history of their cinema, Z-108 will certainly put them on the map with expectations of future horror releases.

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