Being #Alive Feels Good!
Oh Joon-woo (Ah-In Yoo) wakes up in his family’s apartment all alone to find that his parents have left on their weekend trip without waking him. Mom leaves a note telling him to buy groceries with some money she left, because they didn’t have time to stock up before taking off. He goes back to his room and boots up his video game, playing with his online friends, when they begin to remark about weird news coming over the television. He finds out that a strange infection is spreading through the city and it’s turning people into rabid cannibals. Screams draw him to his balcony where he sees his neighborhood and city plunged into chaos. Blood runs thick, people fight for their lives, while the infected sprint after them, craving meat. With nowhere to go, locked in his apartment, days go by and lack of food and utter loneliness begins to drive him mad. Finally, the despair is too much, and Oh Joon-woo decides to hang himself. Dangling from his noose, he discovers another survivor living in an apartment across the street from him, a girl named Kim (Shin-Hye Park). She starts sending him messages. From a distance, they work together to try and survive this horrific time and team up to try and escape the city. But the infected still roam the halls and the streets, readying to feast.
#Alive is a film that slowly lures you in, promising an end-times zombie apocalypse but also revealing a more intimate story within that framing. As the world around Oh Joon-woo deteriorates, so too does our hero. All alone, he can’t make it, but once he finds a friend, things change. That’s right about when the movie switches gears. The beginning is mostly concerned with survival and the effects of isolation, but the middle act introduces hope and companionship, and it’s fun to watch the sweet relationship that grows between these two characters. By the end, that strong bond is tested, as they face overwhelming odds against their survival. Director Il Cho does a great job drawing out these strands of story and emotion and weaving them together into a greater picture. For a short minute, you almost forget you’re watching a horror film and not some really well-done rom-com. But the terror is always just around the corner, so there is never time to get complacent or bored. This is a good little film that explores the sense of loss when community is ripped away and the sense of belonging to something bigger when you’re with someone else. There is a message of interconnectedness to this movie, that we can’t make it without each other. This is enforced by a bit of a tacked-on message at the end: the internet uniting the survivors. Maybe this was added to speak to our Coronavirus age. I don’t know. It’s a good message, but again, it feels like it was added last minute rather than baked in from the beginning (after all, if this was your main theme, why have the internet go down and our main character become disconnected from the world?).
This movie fits into the “zombie” subgenre, but more specifically in that sub-sub-genre of “the infected.” Most of the tropes of the zombie film are here, but they’re sublimated to the main story of isolation and survival, and what it means to live. The action is decent and the gore is alright; there’s plenty of blood to go around, to be sure, but the zombies here are pretty typical of the kinds we’ve gotten in plenty of other movies. Again, though, the infected aren’t the point. If you’re looking for an entertaining and fast-paced horror film with lots of heart and soul, look no further. #Alive is a good one.