#Alive brings thrills, drama, zombies and two people together in a tale of loneliness and hope.
#Alive is a South Korean zombie drama horror film that puts the emphasis on the drama and less on the zombies. While the zombies are the catalysts of the story and push it forwards, it really is about being left alone in the world and the feelings that go with it. It’s not only coping to stay physically alive but also mentally staying human and having a reason to live. With a structure that focuses on the characters, the thrills and gruesomeness of it all therefore becomes all the most real and captivating.
It is highly recommended to watch #Alive with its original Korean audio and with subtitles in your own language if possible.
Oh Joon-woo wakes up one morning when his parents and sister already have left the house and have left nothing for him to eat. Outside something strange is going on, people are shouting, running, screaming and attacking each other. A viral outbreak has taken place, turning the people into violent cannibals, aka zombies, who spread the virus at a rapid speed. Now Joon-woo is all by himself and has to survive a zombie apocalypse. But across the street in an other apartment building he gets noticed by Kim Yoo-bin. Together they try to reach each other and hope for the best.
Why you should watch it
#Alive is not a zombie film in the conventional way. While there are lots of zombies roaming the streets and with grisly appearances, the real fight for survival is to beat loneliness and to have something to live for. Without anyone else, without hope, food, life seems pointless. Therein lies the real horror.
We follow Joon-woo on his struggle to find the will to stay alive. First it’s the voicemail messages from his parents, whom he has hopes for they are still alive. But it is nothing but hope and the messages are getting older by the day. Until he makes contact with Yoo-bin. She’s real, he can connect with her, talk to her and this sparks hope within him and the viewer. The film shifts from an existential crisis and depression mode into action and full of hope.
The camera shots are playful, depressive and hopeful according to the different scenes and reflect Joon-woo’s feelings. Just like the pace of the story. It’s slow when Joon-woo is indifferent and feeling hopeless, it’s a playful split-screen when they can communicate with walkie talkies. It’s fast paced when they both are full of hope and when they finally think they have reached safety, the relief is shown with an ominous vibe.
Because there’s not much dialogue and only two real characters, with Yoo-bin only coming to the scene after one third of the film, Joon-woo’s actions, the way it is filmed and the music are the most important elements to create an enthralling story. With the growling zombies at the background. In three acts, each act adding a new character, the atmosphere shifts and keeps things interesting. Although we don’t get to know them intimately, their characters become clear with minimum dialogue but mostly through their actions.
The first scenes of the zombies and Joon-woon’s reactions are the most gripping and show real horror, while the last act brings as much thrills as realistic horror. The heartwarming bond that grows fast between Joon-woo and Yoo-bin is a great feature of the film and with modern technology they can be close.
It maybe doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, or gives the zombies a center stage, this film is certainly up to date and shows that survival is better when you do it together.
My favorite part
When Yoo-bin came to the scene, the film got a new impulse, like it did for Joon-woo. She’s a great brave character, that overcomes her fears and is smart and more up to survival than Joon-woo. She gives him a reason to live, but it must have been the same for her. The way she jumped off the building with her gear on and rushed through the zombie mob was really great and also filmed in a very dynamic way. It set the change for both of them, turning hopelessness and loneliness into a little fragment of hope and the will to stay alive.
Thrill factor: ★★★☆☆
Drama factor: ★★★☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆
Cast and crew
#Alive is directed and written by Il Cho and cowritten by Matt Naylor. It stars Ah-In Yoo (Oh Joon-woo) and Shin-Hye Park (Kim Yoo-bin).
Duration: 98 minutes. Music: Tae-seong Kim. Cinematography: Won-ho Son. Edited by: Min-kyeong Shin. Produced by: Saemi Kim, Saerom Kim, Eugene Lee, Hyo-jin Oh. Production companies: Zip Cinema, Perspective Pictures. Distribute day: Lotte Entertainment, Netflix.