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Screenshot 2020-10-25 at 20.16.23.png
#ALIVE (2020)


Cho Il-hyung



Run time:

1h 38m

Self-isolating from a killer infection, this zombie thriller is a topical 2020 offering that provides a serviceable addition to the genre

Self-isolating from a killer infection, this zombie thriller is a topical 2020 offering that provides a serviceable addition to the genre

It is highly possible to watch the opening 20 minutes of #Alive in a state partly befitting the onscreen characters. As a deadly virus sweeps society, you are forced to stay inside with your TV as company.

The plot is very 2020 for anyone watching it in its release year and it does a solid enough job of passing the time as Korea’s zombie genre continues to swell.

One advantage of existing genre devices is that following films can spend less time establishing the context of the threat. As such, #Alive spends scant time on its set up, dropping into a familiar sprawling zombie apocalypse within its opening minutes. Indeed, the film does not actually mention the word ‘zombie’ once, we just know what one is already.

Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in – Burning, 2018) is already willingly living a life of solitude inside his apartment playing games online. Suddenly, the TV starts reporting a mysterious pathogen spreading across Korea and he looks out to see bedlam and cannibalism.

He opts to barricade himself inside, but hopes of everything simply blowing over start to fade as the days drag on and the food starts to run low.

Just when it seems that desperation and hunger will get the better of him, a laser pointer from an apartment opposite alerts him to another survivor, Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye).

The pair start to communicate in a relationship reminiscent of the distanced one in Castaway on the Moon (2009) and they plot a plan for survival from the hordes of looming zombies.

The film spends a large degree of its time on the madness, and sometimes boredom, of survival and isolation (all very 2020), intersplicing this with zombie action, fights and near misses.

Featured zombies are of the rapid movement variety like those in Yeon Sang-ho's Train to Busan (2016) and Peninsula (2020). It seems fleet-of-foot is now the stock-in-trade of zombies in Korea and we can probably expect more of the same in further films in the genre.

Stylistically, it is largely a safe outing, except for the opening credits sequence, which provides a unique and artistic exhibition to launch the film.

Technology also plays a large role in this contemporary zombie offering, with online gaming, iPads, iPhones and in particular drones used as plot devices.

There is also a suitability claustrophobic feel to many scenes, with the action never leaving the apartment block and its narrow hallways.

The film resembles much of what will seem familiar to those in the coronavirus lockdown of 2020 – a means to pass time. It is an easy watch, nothing confronting in its themes or violence, and enough fun to occupy 98 minutes of entertainment.

There is not lashing of new territory for the zombie genre, but in a year where audiences have been starved of new releases, it is a relief to feast on the brains of fresh content.

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