2020 | R | starring Yoo Ah-In, Park Shin-Hye | directed by Il Cho | 1 hr 38 mins | In Korean with English Subtitles |
A simple, homebound online gamer (Yoo Ah-In) has his entertainment interrupted with the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse. Now trapped in his mid-rise 1-bedroom apartment, he hunkers down and stays quiet to keep the zombies below at bay, that is until he meets a girl (Park Shin-Hye) in the window across the courtyard. With drones, ropes and laser pointers the two begin communicating with each other until they finally decide to brave the plague and get out together.
While all of the details are different, quirkier and more colorful, the basic guy-alone-in-his-flat framework of the South Korean zombie thriller with the cringing Netflix title #Alive sounds a lot like the 2018 French minimalist zombie film The Night Eats the World. Except where Night was slow and self-important, seeking art in the struggle to move over a single rooftop, Alive is fun, with an idiot of a main character, a psychotic third act and some inventive ways these two characters work the problem.
The film is small, a 2-hander by Yoo and Park, but never feels claustrophobic. It’s simple, but looks good and I did kind of adore a third act set piece involving a rope under a door. Yoo is comfortable with this, previously playing a charming simpleton in Burning and Park is Cool-Girl bait as the resourceful hand-axe-wielding neighbor. This movie wouldn’t work nearly as well without these two, as we’ve seen in just about any minimalist take on the tired genre.
Yes, zombies are long out of fashion. They were all the craze and then receded into the new normal. Now movies with zombie apocalypses don’t even have a component where the characters themselves are shocked by them. It’s another useless-millennial-faces-world movie. It’s The Horde meets Shaun of the Dead. But, aside from a silly final coda (wouldn’t the power be down by then?), #Alive is cute and that’s a fresh angle that may not shock the genre to life, but gives it an entertaining edge along the way.