It's a Guy Thing


A movie review by Asher Luberto

We’re back in the milieu of the zombie apocalypse for #Alive, a South Korean spin on the undead scenario. In writer-director Cho Il’s tweak, it’s “Night of the Living Braindead”: a doofus is locked inside his apartment, and all he can do is wait things out until help or zombies arrive.

#Alive strikes a unique balance of genres, with elements of comedy, horror, exploitation and romance sprinkled throughout. It’s a film for audience members that get as much pleasure out of bloodbaths as meet-cute rom-coms. When our doofus joins the girl next door, smashing zombies with golf clubs, you aren’t sure whether to jump, laugh, swoon or clap.

Ah-In Yoo stars as Joon-wo, who quickly enters the pantheon of comedic horror characters – silly yet vulnerable, odd, clumsy with women and ruthless with his weapon once he gets the hang of it. It’s morning when the virus hits Korea. Joon-wo hears something at the marketplace across the street, and looks outside to find hundreds of people trampling each other. Is it Black Friday at Walmart? A bomb? He isn’t sure what’s going on until his neighbors are picked off by frothing, cannibalistic maniacs. And even then, he isn’t sure.

For almost half the running time, he waits out the virus in his apartment. While most zombie movies involve the scavenging of gas stations and apocalyptic vistas, #Alive takes a more realistic approach, letting the days trickle by as Joon-wo slurps noodles on the couch. Eventually, he strikes up a friendship with Yu-bin (Park Shin-hye), a neighbor with her own system of survival. But as food supplies run low, the couple is forced to flee the apartment, leading to the exciting yet threadbare formula of run, hide, repeat; run, hide, repeat.

#Alive is at its best when Joon-wo is hunkered down in his apartment; or when he and Yu-bin find time to flirt while in quarantine. These scenes make strong points about finding the strength to push forward, to survive when the world is atomized by an isolating virus, giving Il’s debut feature a contemporary bite.