Zombie movies are one of the most exploited genres in the history of cinema. In today’s pop culture, the undead are a decaying corpse whose delicacy is a human’s body. The genre not only appears in films but also in literature, computer games, and TV series. However, the concept of zombies wasn’t invented by the stout Hollywood heads. Originally derived from the Afro-Caribbean VooDoo tradition, the first mention of the walking dead was found in 19th-century travellers’ diaries, which later inspired the imagination of horror writers such as Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who used African beliefs in her gothic novel. While Hollywood are pioneers in zombie films and TV shows, the Asian film industry – Korean in particular – has swiftly caught up with the West with their hits: Doomsday Book, Seoul Station, Train to Busan, Rampant, The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale, Peninsula (Sequel to Train to Busan), Kingdom (Netflix show) and the latest production: #Alive by Cho Il-hyung.
Photo © Lotte Entertainment
After a long night of playing video games, avid gamer Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in: Burning), wakes up late the next day. Alone at home, he unexpectedly receives messages from fellow players asking for help. While confused about what’s happening, he quickly learns that the world he woke up to is not the same as it was the day before. People begin turning into zombies one by one, making it impossible for Joon-woo to leave his apartment. Without much food at home, and water being turned off, the young man is forced to stay put while making a video diary about his survival. After many days of isolation, Joon-woo loses his will to live, however, this changes when he learns he is not as alone as he believed to be. He meets Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye), a girl ‘next door’. Together, they decide to find a way out of this ‘zombie nightmare’ by leaving their apartments…
Photo © Lotte Entertainment
The first part of the film concentrates on Joon-woo’s persona, his fears, isolation, and his struggle to cope with the new reality. While fighting to stay alive and to kill his growing loneliness, Joon-woo documents his survival and posts it on Instagram. Using a corridor-style block of flats and the subject of isolation the film has a promising start, but that changes the moment the character of Yoo-bin is brought into the narrative. While Joon-woo drives the interest of the audience, Yoo-bin’s persona is tedious and lacks any depth which makes the second part of the film unoriginal. Although the plot does provide viewers with a handful of twists and turns, it is not enough to keep one engaged. On top of that, the denouement is uninspiring; the film simply runs out of ingredients and the climax feels like a ‘throw-away’ moment.
#Alive truly wasted its potential, including the lack of ability to generate enough tension. The first 40 minutes of the film might have approached the Zombie genre differently, however, the rest of it quickly reduced the film to cliché ‘catch me if you can’ moments. Yoo Ahn-in is perfect in the role of Joon-woo, nevertheless, even his excellent acting did not save the film from being a run-of-the-mill production.
Written by Maggie Gogler