If there’s one thing Korean cinema seems to be doing much better than Hollywood recently, it would be how they treat the zombie horror genre. In 2016 we got Train to Busan. A movie that reignited my lost love for the genre as a whole. Quickly followed by the also impressive, animated prequel to said movie, Seoul Station. And now we have Netflix’s #Alive to add to that impressive list.
South Korean’s latest entry into the ever-growing zombie fad, is an exhilarating, fast paced, action heavy drama. Taking less than three minutes before we’re thrown into the midst of a zombie outbreak, #Alive wastes no time with its narrative building and predominately focuses on its tension driven progression.
Set in an apartment complex in South Korea’s capital, Jun-u, a young enthusiastic gamer, must fight against the quickly growing infected that are surrounding his apartment in which he is having to defend on his own. With little food and even less means of defence, Jun-u’s chance of survival is growing slimmer by each passing day. That is until he meets his highly prepared neighbour, Yu-bin. The pair then use whatever resources they have to communicate to each other from across the complex, and attempt to come up with a ‘sure-fire’ plan for their escape.
Whilst #Alive may not be breaking new territory within the genre per say, it utilises the constraints of its single location narrative to propel the dangers we see on screen. You may look at the title and even the movie poster, which depicts our lead hanging off of his balcony with a selfie stick in hand, and immediately rule this out as a genuinely sharp and thought provoking piece that’s no more than eye candy to the younger generation. But you’d be very wrong.
Where I’d usually consider the heavy use of mobiles, selfie sticks and drones as deplorable and distracting devices to help engage modern viewers, #Alive uses them as a clever tool for its tech savvy lead character to further increase his chance for survival.
Il Cho’s directional debut is by no means perfect. A portion of the movie’s middle act is bogged down by its shift in tone from frantic action, to love interest character development. Add in a finale that at this point is so by the numbers, it feels as though its part of the quintessential zombie trope checklist, then you can see areas in which Cho could have gone bolder. But when it comes to the nitty gritty, #Alive deserves to be respected for what it does do right.
There’s often moments of beauty scampered between its constant blood shed and brutality, which gives #Alive much more weight than is previously perceived. But it takes too long dwelling on those moments, that you begin to miss the one thing you expected to see going in. However, this Netflix original is an edge of your seat, bite sized (pun intended) thriller, that is worthy of breaking the mould of disappointments for the streaming service.