Updated: Oct 15
Yesterday I covered 1932’s White Zombie, which is considered the first American feature-length zombie movie. But today I’d like to talk about a newer zombie flick: Cho Il-hyung's 2020 South Korean film #Alive.
After so many years of zombie movies, it’s difficult to do anything innovative with the genre, so my expectations weren’t very high. The movie certainly can never measure up to dramatic hits like Train to Busan, but it still manages to offer a timely tale of flesh-eating bastards.
#Alive follows Oh Joon-woo, a teenager trapped in an apartment during the zombie apocalypse outbreak. His parents text him that they’re fighting to get home, and that he needs to stay in the apartment and stay alive at any cost.
The movie starts off at a pretty fast pace, using the typical ‘Breaking News!’ television exposition to describe the outbreak as well as symptoms of the infected. What’s immediately interesting to me, viewing this during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is the infected in #Alive can be asymptomatic for an extended period of time and still spread the virus with physical contact. I’m pretty sure this is coincidental and not a reference to the current pandemic, but it gave me chills for a brief moment. It’s too bad the movie doesn’t use this information at any point during the movie with the exception of an early scene.
One of my favorite parts of #Alive was watching the protagonist slowly lose his mind during his extended isolation. Once again, I’m sure this is coincidental, but his experience was a pretty accurate representation of what most of us went through during the first few months of the pandemic. He tries desperately to distract himself, and every time he turns on the television or reaches out to the outside world, he’s quickly met with disappointment and anxiety. He even tries to pass the time with copious amounts of alcohol, which only furthers his depression to near-deadly levels.
I also like how #Alive utilizes social media and technology such as personal drones. I haven’t seen this done in other movies, at least not very well, and this movie finds a way to make it interesting. Also, we get to see an idiot with a selfie stick fall to his death, which is always hilarious (to me).
A funny moment in #Alive is when the protagonist discovers the perils of not listening to his mother when she told him to go grocery shopping earlier in the day. Ignoring your parents is a pretty standard teen thing, especially when you know you can put off chores until a later time…and #Alive shows what happens when the immediate future isn’t quite so guaranteed.
The zombie makeup, paired with some non intrusive CGI, is outstanding. In fact, the zombies in #Alive reminded me of the infected in the PlayStation hit The Last of Us. They can’t see or hear very well, and they’re mostly drawn toward loud noises. Some of them have faint memories of their life prior to being infected, and they mindlessly mimic their typical daily duties when they’re not running full-sprint after survivors.
I also have to hand it to the fight choreography and how well it paired with the tension. There are plenty of moments where the characters have close brushes with zombies and have to fight to escape, and these moments are executed well.
All in all, I have to say #Alive exceeded my expectations and made me happy that I haven’t cancelled Netflix yet. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the movie quite as much during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, since it presents the worst case scenario for long periods of isolation, but with that two-month time period behind me, I’m able to enjoy #Alive for the exciting zombie jamboree that it is.
This week, I'm doing seven straight days of zombie movie reviews as a part of my 31 Days of Horror Reviews series. Do you have a favorite zombie movie? Tell me in the comments and I’ll add it to the roster.