Review: #ALIVE (2020)
You would think a zombie thriller about being trapped in your apartment would be hitting it on the nose a bit too much, but hey, it was in production in 2019 so not going to hold it against them too much.
#ALIVE is a South Korean zombie film by Cho Il-hyung that follows a gamer who wakes up to find himself trapped during a typical fast zombie outbreak. It's loosely based on on a 2014 WEBTOON comic titled Dead Days by DEY, capturing the main atmospheric tone of being trapped and dealing with isolation and despair. The movie doesn't waste any time getting into it as you only get a minimal intro with the main character of Joon-woo before he becomes the witness that guides us through this apartment-level look at an outbreak.
The pace of the film switches quickly, at one moment chaos filled and then dragging you along as Joon-woo deals with boredom and desperation. As he struggles with starvation, attempting to make contact with social media, and surviving the occasional break-in from a zombie, you're along for the ride as he's consumed with frustration and depression.
For the most part it's fairly effective and probably an interesting parallel to some people's experience with quarantine this year, but Joon-woo's character has a sort of dull numbness that leaves you wishing you were stuck with someone else. I'm not sure how much of that is on purpose or due to Yoo Ah-in's acting, but thankfully we get introduced to another survivor in Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye), and geez did I wish we were stuck with her for the first half of the film.
Yoo-bin constantly voices the audiences own ponderings of if Joon-woo is an idiot, her crafty survivalist nature giving us a more engaging hero to focus on to pull the story out of Joon-woo's cramped world. The contrast works wonders as she gives Joon-woo a focus point for hope and for coming out of his shell, while his (mostly) affable nature helps to ground her a bit.
The zombies are well done, their make-up and body choreography solid. The trick is, there's just not much else to them. They are just a plot device to give this thriller about being trapped enough incentive to be labeled an action horror flick, but in their zombie-ness there's nothing unique. We're well past needing any real explanation for them other than 'disease' (which really, is enough for 2020). They just are, and they give a good enough reason for someone to stay home.
If I'm stretching it, there's a painful metaphor off facing the trials of social anxiety to attempt to get out of your shell. I mean, there's been plenty of times where I think about going out and I feel like the following is a good representation of a society I don't really want to interact with:
That certainly feels like some days at the grocery store this year.
I'm not entirely sure I want to give this film that much credit though. While I enjoyed it, it is for the most part largely forgettable in comparison to the last two South Korean zombie projects I've seen and would gladly recommend (Train to Busan and Kingdom). And those might be unfair comparisons, but when confronted with yet another zombie film I need something a bit fresher than the premise of being stuck in your apartment to really sell it.