Where does the fascination with the undead come from? Is it the love of horror, the repellent zombies’ behaviour or the taste of adrenaline-filled adventure? Hard to say, as the zombie-loving audience varies as much as the character of zombies themselves.
Zombies have been present in cinema for quite some time, but they only found their way to TV in the past decade. Now, with VOD platforms widely available as an alternative to the scheduled TV programme, the VOD king Netflix was smart enough to pick up the zombie genre for their own productions. Their recent release of Kingdom, an engaging series which skillfully combines horror, thriller and adventure, is a pure joy to watch; after all, for a hefty 2 million dollars per episode, one can only expect excellent writing, actors and production, with Kim Seong-hun (Tunnel) in the director’s seat and with Kim Eun-hee (TV show Signal) authoring the screenplay.
Photo © Netflix
Korea, 15th-century. Hunger, a clear class division as well as a long-term war have left the country in a deplorable state. Unexpectedly, the king falls ill and the successor to the throne is his illegitimate son, Crown Prince Yi Chang (Ju Ji-hoon). However, there is another power-hungry person in the picture; the king’s wife, Queen Consort Cho (Kim Hye-jun), who is expecting a child. With no sign of the king, Yi Chang is desperate to know if his father is still alive. Along with his guardsman, he steals a journal from the royal doctor; it turns out to be a testimony of a secret, hidden within the walls of the palace. The situation takes another turn for the strange when the young heir to the throne, while sneaking into the palace, almost loses his life at the hands of a terrifying creature, not knowing that his father’s illness is linked with the undead that attacked him.
Unlawfully accused of treason, Yi Chang escapes from the palace and becomes the head of a small group of people who managed to avoid being mauled by the living dead. With the group, now also consisting of a healer Seo-bi (Bae Doona), he must do everything to prevent the deadly epidemic spreading throughout the country…
Photo © Netflix
The six-episode show is a typical story about the pursuit of power with a huge dose of zombies and excitement, and it is a series you ought to binge-watch, that’s how good it is – you’ll find yourself watching episode by episode as quickly as the zombies run. The story is filled with suspense and superb action. Each episode offers an exciting clash with the living dead, and instead of an overdose of CGI, there is always a healthy amount of zombie extras present, running around the villages like headless chickens.
Based on Kim Eun-hee’s The Land of the Gods web-comic series, the narrative in Kingdom has it all, including a fresh perspective at the already well-known topic of zombies. The Netflix’s show swings on the edge of a historical drama, set with a feudal atmosphere as the background for a portrait of uncompromising power struggle that includes the genre regulars – lying, plotting, etc.
Photo © Netflix
Beautiful and colourful period costumes, excellent camera work, music, set design, and well-choreographed sword fights – all elements smoothly fall into the right place, but what is in the forefront is the sublime performances of the cast. Ju Ji-hoon, Bae Doona, Ryu Seung-ryong, Kim Sang-ho are truly charismatic in their respective roles; their characters make viewers dive into the story immediately.
With Kingdom, the audience can count on superb entertainment, but might also feel unsatisfied by the end of the episode 6th – only because they will find themselves wanting more… both of the zombies and of Ju Ji-hoon’s team.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna