It may be tempting to write “#Alive” off as just another zombie movie. In a way that’s what it is. This South Korean survival thriller from director and co-writer Cho Il-hyung doesn’t bring anything particularly new and it certainly doesn’t reinvent the horror sub-genre. At the same time, it’s hard not to enjoy its nimble pacing, stylish verve, and its tightly focused story that keeps things simple, concise, and always moving forward. Toss in just the right amount of dark humor and a good handling of its characters.
The film wastes no time throwing us into the zombie mayhem. Oh Jun-U (Yoo Ah-in) is a gamer still living with his parents. The opening moments give us a good idea of his everyday routine. He wakes up, splashes some water on his face, grabs a drink, and than immediately logs into his computer where he spends his day playing video games and live streaming them for his online followers. As he cranks up a game of PUBG (or at least something resembling it) he’s told by a follower to check his TV. There he learns that the zombie apocalypse has begun.
“#Alive” doesn’t get bogged down in the hows and whys. Newscasts tell us it’s a highly contagious virus. They let us know it’s happening all over the city. Cho Il-hyung smartly assumes we know all the rules (don’t get bit, shoot them in the head, etc.). This allows him to get right into telling his particular story. The first half is more or less a survival drama. It focuses on Oh Jun-U alone and barricaded in his family’s apartment, the building flooded with hungry undead and his resources slowly running out. It’s an intriguing angle that hones in on both the physical and psychological toll once food and water are gone and you have no contact with your family or any other person for that matter.
Oh Jun-U reaches his breaking point but is saved by a mysterious red laser shining through his window. He traces it to the apartment building across the zombie infested courtyard where a young woman named Kim Yu-Bin (Park Shin-hye) is also holed up – same floor, same situation. And just like that Oh Jun-U realizes he’s not alone. Concluding their chances of survival are better together, the two form a plan to come together. But they quickly learn these zombies have keener senses than your run-of-the-mill movie undead. They’re fast, ferocious, and we get the sense they have the ability to adapt. It adds a slightly fresh layer of danger to the story.
The rest of the movie advances at a feverish pace and highlights Cho Il-hyung knack for building tension. Adding to it is cinematographer Won-ho Son who shoots the zombie action with a ferocious style. You may never get the sense that you’re seeing something new, but fans of the genre will appreciate how well-crafted and choreographed these scenes are. The movie also has fun with ￼current day technology.￼ Social media, virtual reality drones and smartphones are just some of the things that have a part in the story.
I am surprised by how much fun I had with “#Alive”. It won’t win over anyone who already dislikes zombie movies, but it does do some cool and interesting things within the zombie genre which makes this more then some B-movie hack job. The characters have enough meat on their bones (absurdly bad pun intended) for us to care about them, there are some nice touches of humor, and the zombie horror action delivers exactly what you expect. It turns out to be well worth a weekend watch. “#Alive” is now streaming on Netflix.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS