#Alive (2020, South Korea). A man, who lives with his parents, is left alone during the start of a zombie outbreak. Is he the only survivor? Directed by Il Cho, starring Ah-In Yoo and Park Shin-hye. Began showing on Netflix on 8 September.
As many of you know, I am a zombie addict. Although most of the viewers out there either think that zombie movies are “so last year” or cannot understand why anyone would watch a film about the zombie apocalypse in the current state of the world, I press on.
Since I was sent home from my (now gone) job on 17 March, I have seen a dozen zombie films. Two were documentaries about George Romero, but the remaining ten were varying visions of what the world will be like in the throes of an infestation of zombies. The films have included the Good (The Girl with All the Gifts), the Bad (Night of the Living Dead-Resurrection) and the Ugly (Zombie with a Shotgun).
Number 12 is from the current hotbed of zombie movies: South Korea. In 2016, the country’s zombie industry was placed squarely in the forefront with the masterpiece “Train to Busan.” This was followed by an animated “prequel” called “Seoul Station”. Next came the film of medieval zombies, “Rampant”. Before the release of the “Busan” sequel, “Peninsula”, Netflix brings us Il Cho’s “#Alive”. This is Cho’s feature directorial debut. Prior to this, Cho was an assistant director or unit director on several, apparently, crime drama features.
The film stars Ah-In Yoo, as Oh Joon-woo, a man who lives with his parents in an apartment in Seoul. Home alone, the zombie apocalypse breaks out. His parents are at his sister’s, and he becomes isolated on the sixth floor of the building. Within the first twenty days, the water stops running and his food runs out. Deciding to end it all, he attempts to hang himself from the ceiling fan. In most films, this becomes a point of comic relief, as ceiling fans are not strong enough to hold one’s weight.
In this case, the beam from a laser pointer come through the open door to his balcony, taking his attention to such words as “Hello” and “Don’t be a moron.” Struggling to get down from his noose, he finds that there is a girl survivor in the building across from him. Actress Park Shin-hye plays Kim Yoo-bin. The two make a connection.
Although socially awkward, Oh’s tech savvy and Kim’s survivalist skills complement each other and the two form a bond that will help them later in the film when they try to escape their predicament.
The film is loaded with mostly fast zombies, a la the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”. There is excellent make-up and the extras know their way around the contortions of the changes from living to living dead. The film also shows signs of other homages and borrowings. The beginning theme of isolation is comparable to France’s “The Night Eats the World”, which addresses this issue throughout its entire film. As Oh finds another survivor and the two carry on together, isolation turns to action scenes, some of which harken back to France’s “Le Horde.” A climbing zombie reaches Kim’s apartment, only to be cut off at the wrist. The hand remains for several second before gravity takes over. This reminds one of the poster for George Romero’s “Land of the Dead.” A scene of a selfie taker and a phone message from his parents, add a look into what is happening elsewhere, much like the radio messages and other video clips used in Romero’s “Diary of the Dead”. There are a few other scenes that could be tied to other films in the genre, but they would be spoilers.
I just reread the last paragraph. I have seen too many zombie Films. It’s a living…
As with any zombie Film, the story is about the survivors. Looking at the IMDb bios for Ah-In Yoo and Park Shin-hye, we find that they are award-winning actors for their relatively short careers (Ah-In since the late 1980s, Park since the mid-2000s). And the acting is better than most, and the characters are very believable. The story is engaging with enough action sequence to carry interest. It does not rely on gross out splatter shots. The film even turns away for some scenes that would be graphic.
The sad part of the film is that it will be compared to “Train to Busan”. Most Korean zombie Films are having that problem. It’s a bit unfair. “Busan” is one of those rare “high water mark” films that stand out in a crowded field. To think that lightning will strike twice in the same spot is unrealistic. According to reports, the film has done well at the box office. “Peninsula” is in current release in Korea.
“#Alive” is a good Zombie Film with many of the elements that make such a film in the genre above average. Granted, it isn’t “Train to Busan”. But it also isn’t “Night of the Living Dead-Resurrection”