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, 2021 and 2022.

Here there be spoilers!

The Korean horror film boom is real thing, folks. Cho Il-hyung’s 2020 film #Alive is yet another example of how to do zombies right, even if it doesn’t break the mold.  Interestingly, it is based on a 2019 script by American screenwriter Matt Naylor, which was also made in 2020, but if reviews are to be believed, not quite as successfully. Naylor co-adapted his script with Cho and it looks like two heads were better than one.

Cho is yet another first-time feature film director, with just one short under his belt (2011’s Jin), but he’s been Second Unit or Assistant Director on seven other features and shorts, so again, he’s not coming into this blind. And it shows. #Alive is a fantastic-looking film, with a very tight plot and quick pace.

There’s potential to get boring or bogged down when you have a film that is generally set in one location, which is what we’ve got here as video game live streamer Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in) wakes up to find his parents are out, leaving him alone in the family’s apartment and he’s forgotten to do the shopping. And then, as one might guess, the zombie apocalypse happens.

This film does a lot of good work integrating social media into the storyline in ways that don’t draw overt attention to themselves. There’s not a lot of flashy editing to make it feel more edgy; it’s just solid filmmaking with a clear eye toward the storytelling. We spend a lot of time with Joon-woo as he defends himself from a neighbor, watches the carnage below his window, and starts hallucinating from lack of food (and from excessive booze – he raids his dad’s liquor collection). When the phone network is momentarily restored, he receives a voicemail from his family telling him to stay inside and stay alive, only to also record their own deaths from zombie attack.

We get a nice sense of hopelessness as Joon-woo finally decides to give up and kill himself, before Cho injects a bit of hope back in by introducing another survivor in an apartment across the courtyard. Again, as one might expect, it’s a pretty lady. Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye) has food to share and thanks to Joon-woo’s drone, they are able to connect a rope to each apartment and send supplies across in a basket.

From this point on, we get a number of exciting and tense scenes as the two try to figure out how to survive long enough to reach what appear to be empty apartments on the eighth floor above Joon-woo’s home, and what happens from this point on, I’ll just leave for you to find out.

Honestly, you can probably already guess. And yet, #Alive manages to remain exciting and engaging.

The tone stays pretty consistent throughout the film, the performances are very good, and the ending nails the landing. It’s interesting to see how well #Alive was received compared to how Alone was rejected. The plots, according to their Wikipedia pages, are virtually identical, however the American version is seen as cliché while #Alive is praised for being unpretentious and innovative. Having not seen Alone, I can’t comment on that, but Cho’s adaptation does have a fresh positive energy that a lot of American zombie horror has kind of lacked for a while, wallowing in despair and grimdark preoccupations – I’m looking at you Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and Army of the Dead.

Maybe next year we’ll focus the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon on what’s been happening in American zombie cinema, just to get a good representation and make a more informed comparison.

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