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Raw and Gritty, ‘#Alive’ Is a Zombie Film Centred on the Everyday Man

18 September 2020

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Raw and Gritty, ‘#Alive’ Is a Zombie Film Centred on the Everyday Man

The rapid spread of an unknown infection has left an entire city in ungovernable chaos, but one survivor remains alive in isolation. This is his story.

Director: Cho Il-Hyung

Cast: Yoo Ah-In, Park Shin-Hye

Year: 2020

Country: Korea

Language: Korean

Runtime: 99 minutes


(Image credit: Lotte Entertainment)

Personally I’ve never been a fan of the ‘zombie apocalypse’ genre. The senseless violence and over the top gore is never something I thought of as fun to watch. Not to mention being eaten alive sounds like the worst death ever. 

Despite that, I can’t help but say I really enjoyed #Alive. The movie does so many things well, but what I liked the most is the genuine human moments in the film. It really wasn’t something I expected from the genre. 

So from the perspective of someone who dislikes zombie apocalypse flicks, here’s why alive is great and a movie that I would recommend.

#Alive tells the story of Joon-Woo (Yoo Ah-In), the everyman, blank slate character that watchers can project themselves on to. He is just a normal guy, in an abnormal situation by sheer luck, be it good or bad.

He wakes up, home alone. On his living room table is money and a note from his parents telling him there’s no food at home. He turns on the television and we are introduced to the central conflict. 

#Alive doesn’t wait, dropping you straight into the chaos three minutes in. There is no dilly dally. Considering how zombies are a staple of horror now, I enjoy how they throw you straight into the action. There is no long convoluted introduction to characters or introduction of the spreading virus. 

(Image credit: Lotte Entertainment)

Joon-Woo simply leaves his room, walks to the balcony and gets an aerial view of the complete pandemonium: people screaming and running on the streets, cars crashing and people being devoured by the infected. This scene truly throws you into the thick of it, using shaky cam during the most chaotic moments and cutting from the hullabaloo to Joon-Woo’s reaction.

Visually, you can see that what he has witnessed has taken a toll on him. He is helpless, just an observer to the chaos, unable to do anything. And this becomes his reality. He is stuck in his apartment, with the whole complex infested with the undead, no food, no water and completely alone.

As he spends more days cooped up in his apartment alone, not knowing what manner of horror waits outside the door, his resolve to survive begins to unravel. Here Ah-In’s performance really shines through as he plays a grief-stricken survivor. Being the only survivor, we see him struggle mentally with the idea of being the last one left. His breakdown that follows is one that feels so raw and genuine that his grief is almost palpable.

While zombie movies may be somewhat overdone, this film is not like the rest. Unlike films where the hero immediately becomes a gun wielding badass that can dispatch the infected like flies, #Alive focuses on the human element. We don’t get a band of survivors that gets picked off one by one as they trek through the post-apocalyptic wastelands, facing hordes of the undead. Instead, we see the world devolve through ‘everyman’ Joon-Woo’s eyes and time feels stagnant, with no hope for change.

While some events seem hardly believable, I guess it comes with the territory. Suspension of disbelief is required in some more outlandish moments, but so does believing in reanimated, flesh eating corpses.

(Image credit: Lotte Entertainment)

The most horrifying part is that these zombies have vague ties to their regular lives, knowing how to do daily tasks such as opening doors, which the undead have no right doing. That paired with the fact they seem to have an insanely keen sense of hearing, increases the stakes. They aren’t just the mindless drones that we are used to on screen.

The horror is heightened by the fact that sound is used very carefully in the movie. Sound design intensifies the mood and creates suspense and tension. The movie rarely juxtaposes the intense score with characters whispering and gasping really drawing you in, making you feel their apprehension.

As a film, #Alive could not have come at a better time. With Circuit Breaker having gone by not too long ago, it definitely has elements of relatability. The fear of the outside world and cabin fever from staying in 24/7 is something we ourselves have lived through. Of course we weren’t hiding from undead flesh eating cannibals but a different kind of monster, yet it makes the film all the more captivating.

With stellar performances, a relatable premise and riveting horror, #Alive is a film not to be missed, even for those who don’t enjoy zombie flicks. It is as frightening as it is fun and has a little something for everyone.


Catch the trailer below:


Read more:
– Staff Picks: SeaShorts Film Festival 2020
A Movie With a Message; ‘Parasite’ Is a Social Thriller and Class Critique Done Right
Why I Love Asian Horror – From the Perspective of a Scaredy-Cat

Catch #Alive through these streaming services:

An avid reader and movie watcher struggling to balance a love for life with inherent existential nihilism.