I am a stickler for zombie films. I just try to do right by George A. Romero, rest his soul. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, as well as Zack Snyder’s remake, hold an incredibly important place in my zombie infested heart. I think a filmmaker who endeavors to shoot a zombie flick is only as good as the fear they can induce with scenes shot during the day. Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later should be at the top of all of our lists for the kind of anxiety inducing scenes Cillian Murphy so masterfully carried us through.
Many would like to think our best and bloodiest days (dead days, that is) are far behind us, but South Korean directors Yeon Sang-ho and Il Cho would seriously like a word with you. In 2016, Train to Busan became an instant hit, seemingly coming out of left field, and the public’s appetite for Yeon’s kind of horror-inducing drama that came with it was insatiable. It would be a handful of years later that Netflix bingers would be treated to another unexpected gem in Cho’s feature-length directorial debut, Alive.
Starring Yoo Ah-in, Punch (2011) and Secret Love Affair (2014), and Park Shin-hye, You’re Beautiful (2009) and The Heirs (2013), Alive is an apocalyptic zombie thriller that follows a lone content creator who spends his days and nights gaming, only to wake one morning to the news that zombies have taken over his apartment complex and city. The premise is run-of-the-mill, but what really shines in this film is the dynamic between Yoo, who plays Jun-woo, and Park, as Yu-bin, and their fight for survival.
We come to sympathize with these characters very early on, as Jun-woo must quickly come to terms with the state of things around him, as well as the possibility of his family being in mortal danger. His apartment is cozy but lacks the essentials many college age kids go weeks and months without — like adequate groceries. His performance is compelling, especially as the reality of his situation takes its toll on him, and we begin to fear the worst as the film progresses.
The chance encounter that sparks a connection between Jun-woo and Yu-bin is equal parts charming and tragic, and again the audience is hopeful yet fearful and entirely committed to these two young survivors. The apartment complex itself fits the zombie plagued aesthetic so beautifully — from the bloody hallways, to the haunting staircases, the scenery makes you feel doomed. Despite a handful of cliches and questionable instances of “how the hell did that just happen?,” Alive is teeming with promise for any zombie fan.
Alive will surely scratch that zombie bite for anyone looking for the same kind of rush from past favorites. It released on September 8 on Netflix and hit the #1 spot in several countries.