SYNOPSIS: As a grisly virus rampages a city, a lone man stays locked inside his apartment, digitally cut off from seeking help and desperate to find a way out.
If we look back at 2020 a decade later, Google probably tells us “pandemic” could be one of the most common searched word for that year. Just liked Train to Busan, #Alive is a Korean zombie horror movie set in the middle of a pandemic. It doesn’t tell audiences a lot about the “pandemic” but good enough to convey the thrill and chill of the genre.
Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in), a seemingly hardcore gamer who lives with his family in an apartment in Seoul city awakes one morning to see masses of people running amok and devouring each other. The TV advises people to try stay indoors and prepare a food supply of at least 60 days. It seems a deadly virus is spreading but Joon-woo has no clue of what’s going on except to shut himself in an apartment that is fast running out of food and water.
Weeks passed and just as he is about to hang himself, a surviving neighbour named Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye) living directly across Joon-woo reaches out to him. Together they communicate via walkie-talkie and makes a plan to escape their predicament before they are kill by hordes of restless zombies.
#Alive ironically is a much enjoyable romp than the sequel to Train to Busan. The pacing is dynamic, doesn’t really take itself that seriously and offers lots of physical gory makeup effects in place of fake CGI visuals. For the first half an hour, we are stuck with Joon-woon, watching him struggle with an infected neighbour and hilariously succumbing to his last bowl of instant noodles after watching a ramen ad on tv.
Director Cho Il-hyung and co-scriptwriter Matt Naylor are content in piling the flick with some dark comedy elements instead of exploring Joon-woo’s psychological well-being and emotion. There’s some brief touches on the typical lifestyles of young millennials with their constant obsession with smartphones, drones and social media. But again, the filmmakers just want audiences to have lots of unpretentious fun which #Alive actually offered buckets of.
Large scale zombie infestation might be thrilling for some, Il-hyung for one choses to scale down the spectacle. That doesn’t mean the excitement is compromised. On the contrary, it’s pretty hair-raising to watch a zombie slowly climbing up to Yoo-bin’s apartment while Joon-woo watched helplessly right across. Or the sequence where Joon-woo rummaged his neighbour’s unit for food with uproarious result. How about Yoo-bin’s somewhat incredible escape through hordes of zombies?
#Alive might not offer the highest points in terms of plotting especially the final act which some might find uninspiring. Still, being all unoriginal and predictable, the latest zombie flick from Korea is rollicking fun and definitely worth catching for all of us stuck in the middle of a pandemic.
Review by Linus Tee