Quarantine Gets Worse in Korean Zombie Horror #Alive (2020)
First Wide Release: June 24, 2020 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Il Cho
Writer: Il Cho, Matt Naylor
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Starring: Ah-In Yoo, Shin-Hye Park, Hyun-Wook Lee
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Oh Joon-woo (Ah-In Yoo) wakes up one morning to his usual routine while his family is out when he discovers that a zombie outbreak is ravaging his city. Locked in his apartment with few supplies and no communication to the outside world, Joon-Woo must find the will to survive isolation. He soon finds that in Kim Yoo-bin, another lone survivor in the apartment complex across from his. Together they must work together if they want to survive. Il Cho directs this Korean zombie horror film.
#Alive is a cliched but fun zombie apocalypse film that hits familiar beats with two endearing leads.
Let’s be clear that #Alive does very little to distinguish itself from similar zombie films released in the last few decades. Its unoriginality doesn’t deter it from being a serviceable film in the subgenre that does what it needs to in order to evoke visceral thrills and recoils. The use of technology does plant the film firmly in the modern era in a way that increases the tension. Drones, selfie sticks, and other technology are utilized appropriately without outright pandering to younger generations. Despite all its shortcomings, I found it easy to get invested in #Alive.
Most of the film falls squarely on the two main young actors who do a good job portraying their roles. Yoo plays stupid in an absolutely charming manner, even if you want to slap Joon-Woo across the face sometimes. Park’s Yoo-bin falls into the trap of the flat strong female character archetype. She’s absolutely a badass but she doesn’t have much depth behind her other than her fear of heights and a potentially strained relationship with her father. She deserves more than caustic one-liners! At times, character’s motivations are questionable, but that’s a pretty common zombie trope so I think it can be excusable here.
There’s not much to say about #Alive from an artistic or technical lens. It is pretty standard across the board. Simple shots are primarily used outside of a few good drone shots. The zombies themselves look realistic but aren’t any more disturbing or interesting to look at than any B-level zombie outing made in the last ten years. The biggest disappointment is how little they try to impress.
#Alive began with a lot of potential then stumbled into roadblocks common for the subgenre. The beginning is the film’s strongest segment before succumbing to a lagging middle and a tonally incoherent ending. Speaking of tone, #Alive is all over the place. It vacillates between dark, light, depressing, humorous, heartwarming, and romantic. I won’t say that any or all of those feelings should be excluded from a zombie horror film, but it didn’t feel appropriate to experience such whiplash between acts or even scenes. It makes #Alive a less enjoyable ride because you never know what you are getting into the further along you go.
Unexpectedly timely, #Alive does explore interesting, if standard, consequences of survival. Joon-woo glides through isolation in the first fifteen minutes or so of the flick and it is hard not to feel for him. He’s hungry, bored, scared, and missing his family. I get it and you probably do too. The toll begins to weigh on him before he ultimately decides to end his life before being saved by Yoo-bin. From there, this theme of craving survival because you are eager to live takes over, which is a welcome change that feels very uplifting at just the right time in world history for many. While it isn’t expounded upon much, it is a lighter theme that other zombie flicks may not marinate on too much.
I find myself ignoring most of #Alive’s flaws because of how enjoyable it is to watch. It hits all the notes at the right times to be exciting, emotional, and funny. It does overstay that welcome by becoming repetitive, melodramatic, and cheesy towards the end. It balances out to work. If its biggest crime is being indistinguishable from other films, it could do a lot worse. I’d recommend giving it a chance on streaming if you’re bored. Let’s face it, you’re probably still in quarantine, why not commiserate with someone who’s clearly having a worse time in lockdown than you?
Overall Score? 6.5/10