Movie Review: #ALIVE (2020)

At a time when all of us have been put on lockdown one way or another, we understand full well what it feels like. But in a fictional world, things could always be worse. Worse as in zombies are waiting for you outside. And this is the world that one young man awakens to in #Alive, a South Korean thriller currently available for streaming on Netflix. This film feels too close to home especially during these uncertain times, but come on, it’s Yoo Ah-in and Park Shin-hye together in a movie… with zombies!

Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in) is a millennial gamer who wakes up one fine day only to discover that his entire world has changed. While he initially believes he has been left at home for just a short period while his parents and sister go out, he eventually realizes that they will not be returning anytime soon. The streets beneath his flat have been infested with flesh-eating zombies resulting from an unknown, rapidly spreading sickness. Those infected begin to bleed from their eyes and become furious, finally resorting to cannibalism, and devouring any human they encounter. Early on, Joon-woo has a near-death encounter with an infected neighbor and barricades himself in his flat. He shares a photo on social media, hoping that someone will see his SOS and rush to his aid, but no one does. The day passes, and he gradually begins to doubt his reality, understanding that he only has nearly enough food or water to sustain a lockdown with no end in sight.

Just when it appears that all hope is lost, Joon-woo establishes an odd friendship with a young woman named Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye), who lives across the street from him. It turns out she’s been keeping an eye on her fellow survivor, and the two begin to look after each other in the hopes of escaping this incomprehensible scenario with their lives intact. Kim Yoo-bin, equipped with ingenious booby traps she’s set up in her flat and a bit more hope than her neighbor, helps Joon-woo rediscover his will to live. Will the two make it? Or will they become zombie dinner? Do they intend to stay in their apartments indefinitely? The horrific possibilities are seemingly limitless.

It may appear to be the obvious choice but #Alive truly belongs to Yoo Ah-in. He has established himself as a top-tier Chungmuro actor, and #Alive just adds to his impressive filmography. Yoo Ah-in spends much of the film by himself, finding methods to pass the time while imprisoned and yearning to see his family or return to some semblance of normalcy. He can portray both hilarity and real sorrow, and this performance is yet another highlight on his enormous resume and a very convincing justification for casting him in future productions.

#Alive is a short, straightforward zombie horror that says more than the ordinary brain-eating film. Rather than wasting time with a long-winded exposition on the virus’s origins and character backstory, it jumps right into the action, putting us in the shoes of our protagonist from the start. A film must have a lot going for it to succeed in a single setting (for the most part), and #Alive accomplishes a lot with a small area. Yoo Ah-in and Park Shin-hye both gave outstanding performances, allowing us to sleep, wake, and pass the time with them. #Alive is sleek and nasty, yet it’s also emotionally resonant. #Alive manages to avoid genre mistakes and obvious story twists, and create something truly unforgettable, thanks to top-notch acting, genuinely horrible visual effects, and a tight script.

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