Following the recent release of Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula over a month ago, here comes another South Korean zombie-horror film in the form of #Alive, which marks Cho Il-Hyung’s directorial debut.
The setup is a familiar one: Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-In) wakes up one day to find himself all alone in his apartment while his parents and sister were already out somewhere. He ends up spending his time playing online games as usual. Except for today, something is not right when he learns there’s breaking news on the television about a sudden zombie outbreak all over the city. As he steps out of the balcony, Joon-woo witnesses a horde of zombies on the street chasing and biting the hapless victims alive.
With nowhere else to go, he decided to stay put in his apartment. Over the course of the movie, we see Joon-woo encounters several near-death experiences and even thinking of committing suicide at one point. But just as hope seems completely lost, he met another survivor from the opposite apartment — a young woman named Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-Hye).
Co-written by Cho Il-Hyung and Matt Naylor, the premise surrounding a protagonist barricading himself indoors amidst the zombie outbreak does hit close to home, which perfectly mirrored the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For starter, the movie wastes little time with expository scenarios on how or where the zombie outbreak originates from. Instead, the story focuses on Joon-woo’s survival while holing up in his apartment.
And for a while there, it looks as if #Alive largely aimed as a one-man show zeroing in on Yoo Ah-In’s role of Joon-woo. His performance is decent enough, even it could have been better if co-writer and director Cho Il-Hyung delves deeper into Joon-woo’s psyche both psychologically and emotionally. This is particularly evident during the long stretch where we find Joon-woo in the increasing state of anguish and despair. I would say it’s a missed opportunity and all we have here is nothing more than surface-level storytelling that prefers to stay mostly neutral with the zombie-horror formula.
The introduction of Kim Yoo-bin later in the movie is a welcoming one, with Park Shin-Hye made quite an impression in her role as one of the survivors. In fact, she even shares better-than-expected chemistry with Yoo Ah-In’s Joon-woo.
Whereas the story is hardly the strongest suit in this movie, Cho Il-Hyung manages to compensate most of the shortcomings with a reasonable pace at a compact 99-minute long. #Alive is also worth noting for its technical aspect, beginning with the convincing makeup effects on the zombie characters and some effective set-pieces (the somewhat implausible but exciting scene where Kim Yoo-bin braved herself to run across the street while slaying a couple of zombies with a hiking gear comes to mind).
#Alive is far from a great South Korean zombie-horror film but remains watchable enough, thanks to the promising two young leads and its technical know-how. Originally premiered in South Korean cinemas on June 24, #Alive is currently streaming on Netflix beginning September 8.