It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before, and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.

For the curious, here are links to 20082009 (a bad year), 201020112012 (when we left the blog behind), 20132014201520162017201820192020, and 2021.


Kingdom: Ashin of the North (2021)

Directed by Kim Seong-hun

Written by Kim Eun-hee

Spoilers for The Kingdom Ahoy!

When last we left the world of the Korean historical zombie TV masterpiece The Kingdom, Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), Seo-Bi (Bae Doona), and Yeong-Shin (Kim Sung-kyu) had saved the kingdom from the zombie horde, Chang had abdicated the throne to a madwoman’s child, and seven years later our heroes Chang and Seo-Bi, on a hunt to eradicate the plant that causes the resurrection of the dead, discover a long-destroyed and abandoned Northern village. Well, not totally abandoned. Zombies wearing ankle bells are running rampant, and after taking refuge in a barn they discover a lone woman standing next to boxes that happen to contain other zombies. Then we cut back to the palace to see the sleeping boy king, who happens to have a zombification worm wriggling under his skin.

Cut to black.

Well, that was back in early 2020 and since then, we’ve been waiting with bated breath for the third season. Suddenly, in July of last year, a special surprise 92-minute episode/film dropped called Ashin of the North and it does a fine job of holding us over until we finally get that full new season. Ashin, it turns out, is the name of the mystery woman in the barn, and this film is a prequel to the entire The Kingdom series, revealing her life story and explaining who she is and what she’s doing with a barnful of boxed up zombies.

Vengeance. That’s what she’s doing. That’s what she’s been doing from behind the scenes all along.

Get ready for some Korean names, locations, and historical politics (thanks, Wikipedia!).

Ashin’s story begins with her as a child (Kim Shi-ah) living in the Northern village of Seongjeoyain with her father and sick mother. Her father, Ta Hab (Kim Roi-ha) was one of the Jurchen people living in Joseon (the titular Kingdom) and loyal to the Kingdom of Joseon. However, the Jurchen border tribes of Pajeowi were not, and were amassing an army at the basin of the Pajero River. When fifteen of the Pajeowi Jurchen slip into the forbidden area known as Pyesa-gun to illegally harvest wild ginseng, they are all murdered. After a bit of sleuthing by Deputy Commander Min Chi-rok (Park Byung-eun), it is discovered that Cho Beom-il, a high-ranking, but disgraced, member of the Hwewon Cho clan orchestrated the killing rather than arrest the invading group – an act that could spark war with the Pajeowi Jurchen.

Intrigue follows and the Commander turns out to not really have Ta Hab’s best interests at heart and Ashin ends up orphaned, her village destroyed, and being forced to grow up in a military settlement post where her life is pretty much wrecked.

On the plus side, we get to see a pretty sick Zombie Tiger stalk, maul, and utterly destroy some people.

Anyway, when she’s not being molested or doing back-breaking work for the village, Ashin (Jun Ji-hyun) spends her time practicing her archery. Years pass and eventually the Commander returns to give her a mission: sneak across the border and spy on the military camp of the Pajeowi. This is where she learns the truth about the fate of her father and the betrayal of the Commander.

She doesn’t take it lightly.

You see, back when she was a child, she too snuck into that restricted area and discovered a small shrine and some strange purple flowers that, according to the shrine, could bring the dead back to life. Armed with the flowers, her bow, a shit-ton of arrows, and a thirst for vengeance, Ashin of the North proceeds to utterly destroy anyone who gets in her way.

And it is glorious.

The final act of this film is pretty much all just zombies slaughtering people while Ashin puts arrows into anybody who tries to escape. Then, in the closing scenes we see her meeting the Joseon King’s physician, Lee Seung-hui, telling him about the resurrection plant. And thus, The Kingdom Season One is launched and it was Ashin behind everything all along (cue “Agatha All Along” music).

Awesome.

This is going to be very interesting to watch play out in The Kingdom Season 3, whenever that arrives, as our Big Bad isn’t actually all that bad, but instead is a force of righteous vengeance. And is maybe a bit on the insane tip.

Kim Seong-hun directed the entire first season of The Kingdom and the opening episode of Season 2 before heading off to, I assume, helm this film while Park In-je directed the final five episodes. Kim Eun-hee wrote all of The Kingdom, Ashin, and she wrote the webtoon series it was based on with artist Yang Kyung-il. After two seasons of the series concentrating on political mistreatment of innocents and lust for blood (both literal and figurative with the focus on royal bloodlines), she wanted Ashin to center on the concept of Han (grief or resentment) and use that as a stepping stone to build Season Three (although there was a report in July, 2021 that another stand-alone special episode was coming next, in 2023, focusing on the backstory of Crown Prince Lee Chang).

As of this writing, however, Netflix hasn’t announced a potential release date for Season Three, but they haven’t actually cancelled the series either. Ashin didn’t do as well as Netflix had hoped, so we’re going to just have to wait patiently and see if we get to return to the Joseon Dynasty.

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