The South Korea entertainment circuit is no stranger to great zombie content. They have cemented their place in pop culture with the likes of 2016’s Train To Busan, Netflix’s Kingdom, and most recently, 2020’s Peninsula (the sequel to Train To Busan). What else can they do with the genre?
Well, director Cho Il-hyung has proven that there is still more life in the zombie genre, as he gives us a non-conventional zombie movie that focuses less on the zombie outbreak itself. But how a modern young person would survive one, and how he or she copes with the loneliness and despair of experiencing one?
That’s what Alive, the latest film from the director, is trying to tap onto.
Joon-woo Of The Dead
Alive doesn’t take long to reach the good stuff, as the movie starts with the beginning of a zombie outbreak. The story begins with protagonist Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in) wakes up to find that his family (parents and sister) are not at home. He finds a note saying that they are out for the day, and as young millennials are wont to do, he starts the day by playing PUBG.
You see, Joon-woo is not just a gamer, but a streamer with subscribers. His gaming session is interrupted by chaos erupting on the streets outside his apartment, where people are attacking each other.
Joon-woo turns on the TV to discover that a zombie outbreak is gripping the country and decides to remain quarantined and isolated in the relative safety of his apartment on the behest of his family.
All this happens in the first ten minutes of the movie (which has a runtime of an hour and 30 minutes), and the rest of the movie has Joon-woo trying to survive on his own while fending off the occasional zombie. What distinguishes Alive from other movies is that viewers will be able to witness Joon-woo’s attempts to stay alive and more importantly, mentally sane, while being trapped within his own apartment with little food and worsening conditions outside.
The movie picks up again when he comes into contact with a fellow survivor named Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye); a girl living in an apartment across the street from his own. I won’t spoil anything, but the heartwarming relationship and sweet interactions between them is a clear highlight of the entire movie.
These will leave you wanting and wishing the best for these two characters, which makes for a great watch that will keep you invested in them until the very end. Will they survive, or will they die?
It is a zombie movie after all, and the best part is seeing who makes it Alive at the very end, especially if they’re characters that you care for (like these two in Alive).
Gamer’s Guide To Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the whole movie is all drama and psychological horror. Zombie fans will still find a lot to like in Alive, especially as it seems to be inspired by other iconic movies in the same genre. For instance, the zombies in Alive are extremely fast and aggressive (not Romero’s slow and shifting undead), similar to Train To Busan, which itself followed in the example of 2002’s 28 Days Later.
As the protagonist is a gamer and tech-savvy person (reflecting the trend of young millennials today), he survives using modern tech and facilities. He relies on his flying drone to inspect his surroundings and help him complete other tasks. Social media also plays a huge role in the movie, though I can’t reveal how without spoiling the movie.
Alive is still very much a fictional movie, so it’s not all realistic. However, the actions of the protagonist are very much expected and believable, which makes his character more relatable than most gun-toting action heroes in other zombie flicks (cough Resident Evil cough). What makes Alive an intense and intriguing watch is that Joon-woo is an average Joe.
That said, while Alive is still violent and gruesome (especially in its depiction of it zombies and how they attack humans), there’s noticeably a lack of blood or guts in the movie. This would be glaring for anyone familiar with other zombie movies. Perhaps it’s to avoid this movie from receiving an 18+ rating.
No Train To Busan
Alive is a good zombie movie, but it probably won’t be as iconic or memorable as 2016’s Train To Busan. It doesn’t take as many risks, either in its narrative or horror elements. It might even be considered tame compared to other zombie movies, though this is relative. Maybe I’m just too desensitized toward the zombie genre at this point.
This movie is worth watching, if only for the performances and dynamic between the two main characters, as well as what it’d be like for an actual person to attempt to stay Alive in an apartment during a zombie outbreak. There won’t be much of anything you haven’t seen before though, and that still hurts the movie a little bit.