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Home > #Alive (2020): A Review

#Alive (2020): A Review

Social media is good for more than developing a dopamine addiction as seen in #Alive. | Yoo Ah-in as Oh Joon-woo in #Alive | Image courtesy of Perspective Pictures

Social Media Saves The Day

When people imagine a zombie apocalypse happening, they often imagine grizzled survivors slaughtering hordes of walking dead. The goal might be to find a cure to save humanity or just try to make it to a promised safe haven. Would be viewers should leave those expectations at the door when watching #Alive. Directed by Il Cho and produced in collaboration between Netflix and Lotte Entertainment, this post-Train To Busan Korean zombie film is a shockingly realistic take on a zombie apocalypse. Starring Yoo Ah-in (Hellbound), Park Shin-Hye (The Heirs), and Jeon Bae-soo (All of Us Are Dead). The film was Initially released on Netflix on June 24, 2020, and readers should pay special attention to the date.

#Zombie Apocalypse in the Real World

If a zombie apocalypse were to suddenly happen right this second, what would happen? Instead of telling the same old story of survivors immediately banding together, #Alive takes the chance to show the grim and boring reality of something like the zombie apocalypse suddenly happening. The first half of the film is essentially spent stuck in the lead’s home with him rarely taking the risk of venturing outside. While this may seem boring, the idea works as this creates a sense of isolation. The lead, and by extension the viewers, feel a strong sense of isolation for the first half of the film. This feeling of loneliness is broken up with news segments on television, social media, and an apartment window which act as the only access to the outside world. 

Imagine something akin to Hitchcock’s Rear Window or Disturbia from Shia Labeouf’s Twink era. These work well in preventing the first half from feeling like it’s dragging. Furthermore, the first half which has less action than the latter half, is the stronger of the two. Additionally, the first half feels almost like a countdown with the days ticking by and the main character’s food supply and will to live slowly dwindling. This all kind of gets thrown out the window in the second half.

Zombie Speed

The second half of the film introduces another survivor and second protagonist played by Park Shin-hye who does a great job. This character is likable and has a decent amount of depth despite not being introduced until halfway through the film. The problem is that the pacing suddenly goes from 20 MPH to 80 MPH. This sudden change in pace can be jarring and makes the sudden introduction of action-heavy scenes near the end difficult to fathom. 

Remember that half of the film is spent inside an apartment with the main character terrified of venturing outside due to the fear of getting eaten alive. By contrast, the film’s last quarter has the main character suddenly rushing into swarms of zombies while ducking and weaving bites like a game of touch football. Some would attribute this change in pacing and tone to a boost in motivation and a newfound will to live. However, more time could’ve been spent building up to that epiphany instead of just throwing that curveball. 

#Relatable

Both Yoo Ah-in and Park Shin-hye do a phenomenal job in their roles but that should be a given considering they’re the only actors on screen most of the time. Yoo Ah-in is supposed to be a streamer who manages to come across appropriately without the audience being directly told via monologue. These characters are also shockingly smart at times. At least, within the context of a horror film, these characters are at least trying to survive. Their reactions to given situations are somewhat believable (until near the end but more on that later). 

There’s one cool scene where one of the characters uses a drone to get better service on his phone. That same drone is used later to establish a zipline to trade food. Horror fans can finally rejoice because characters have survival instincts. Don’t get too happy though, these two get hit with a ray of cognitive dissonance and suddenly forget what the word survival means.

Zombies and Brains

Similar to the pacing, the characters suddenly start losing IQ points in the second half of the film. Bad choice after bad choice will leave the audience believing that these characters are trying to die. In one scene, the low-IQ duo get their hands on a gun and end up shooting someone. The problem with this is that this wasn’t their only option. They had plenty of time to walk over and grab a knife or anything else to get the job done. Mind you, this is while a horde of zombies are looking for them outside their door. 

Worst of all, one of the characters does get hit with cognitive dissonance. For reference, a few scenes back, this character reveals a disdain for suicide despite the zombie apocalypse going on in front of them. Then near the end, this character is suddenly hungry for some lead and is trying to peer pressure the other character into joining in on their one-way trip.

Timing is Everything  

Earlier in the article, there was some emphasis on the release date. The most important part of said date is the year. While that year in particular was filled with notable events, there’s one in particular that probably immediately comes to mind. For most people around the world, 2020 could best be summarized as everyone becoming forced shut-ins, similar to the film’s main characters. With the fear of getting sick or possibly dying, people were essentially stuck inside with nothing to do but watch the news or scroll through social media. The result was a shared isolation. In some cases, people were trapped in foreign countries, separated from their friends and family.

Covid-19 Apocolypse

Thanks to the film’s initial release date, COVID-19 was still fresh in everyone’s minds, making the film’s characters and their situation much more relatable. The overwhelming feeling of isolation and feelings of constant dread are instantly more relatable as a result. It’s no secret that the audience’s investment in a film’s story and characters is tied to how they relate to the characters and their situation. It’s hard to relate to a film about a rich British aristocrat who seemingly never makes mistakes. Despite being set in South Korea, however, it is still easy for the average viewer (assuming they were alive during COVID-19) to easily relate to these characters. 

Their reactions to any given situation also come off as more relatable as a result. There’s a scene early on in the film where someone rushes into the main character’s home. Our boy instantly gets defensive and paranoid, grabbing a knife while trying to force this would-be invader out. While slightly exaggerated (not by much), this is how it felt whenever someone got a little too close or wasn’t wearing a mask. The sense of paranoia at wondering if the people around are infected or not was perfectly captured in this scene.

Final Hashtag

Despite some of the flaws mentioned, this zombie film still works well. Of course, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything. Even with the realm of Korean zombie films, it still sticks to that fast and twitchy zombie popularized by the likes of Train to Busan. It could never be mistaken for a Romero film or 28 Days Later but it still works. Even within the oversaturated genre of zombie films, it would be easy to recommend this film in particular. On a scale of celebrity social media accounts with Lizzo’s Instagram being a fever dream and MrBeast’s YouTube being somewhere around the middle, this film gets a reinstated Kanye West Twitter account.

Watch #Alive on Netflix now.

#Alive (2020) Official Trailer Courtesy of Netflix and Perspective Pictures

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Author

A lover of gore and over the top violence, no movie can make my stomach squirm. The only thing better than a bloody death scene is a well choreographed stunt. Whether it be action or horror, if it has blood in it, then I've likely already seen it.
Author

Sammie is an undergraduate student at Arcadia University where she is majoring in English and creative writing and minoring in media and communications. Sammie enjoys writing about her favorite movies and tv shows and hopes to have a career in the media industry.