Released this summer in South Korea and worldwide in early September, #Alive is Korea’s latest movie to take on zombies. Directed by Cho Il-hyung, it is the first movie since February to surpass one million admissions in Korea which is a significant feat during the pandemic. #Alive focuses on Oh Jun-woo (played by Yoo Ah-in) and Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye) who are stuck in their homes because of a sudden zombie outbreak. Through the characters and their relationship with each other, the film serves a relevant point about the importance of human bonds and its role as a source of hope.
The movie takes place entirely in one apartment complex that Jun-woo and Yoo-bin reside in, and is an eerie echo of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Both characters are isolated at home unable to go outside because of a sudden outbreak that rages on with no known cure. Being stuck at home means that the internet and technology play an increasingly important role in keeping people connected, as demonstrated by current real-world events. In #Alive, the zombie outbreak wreaks havoc on these critical resources, and leaves Jun-woo alone and disconnected from the rest of the world.
This review contains spoilers
Jun-woo, a video game live streamer, is perhaps the most realistic representation of what a younger generation of tech-savvy people may do when faced with a zombie outbreak. When he is first alerted to the outbreak, he tries to play video games to distract himself, until it stops working. He fervently checks social media, where he uploads his own SOS message after seeing others do the same. The internet is a place where he can both escape to and document his situation; he even vlogs his experience being stuck at home. He is the epitome of a modern generation that understands how to effectively utilize the internet and social media.
However, the film pokes fun at a dependence on technology. When Jun-woo looks for a pair of earphones for a makeshift device, he is aghast to discover that all the earphones he has are wireless, rendering them useless. Similarly, though he possesses multiple devices, they become useless as internet service is cut off because of the ongoing zombie outbreak. As he runs out of his limited resources, he melts down and breaks many of the things in his apartment, including his TV which was his only remaining source for news. He is left utterly disconnected from the outside world as the zombie outbreak only seems to get worse. Feeling hopeless with no chance of rescue in sight, he prepares to commit suicide when he realizes that there is another survivor.
Cue Yoo-bin, who is the polar opposite of Jun-woo. She has honed survival skills though it is never revealed how she learned them, though her previous hobby of mountain climbing may have played a role. Their differences are highlighted even in their weapons of choice. Jun-woo wields a golf club, a status symbol, while Yoo-bin has a small axe.
At first glance, Yoo-bin is doing much better than Jun-woo. She has an elaborate trap set up in front of her door in case zombies break in, and her non-perishable food is carefully rationed to last as much as it can. She even stops Jun-woo from committing suicide, and even sends him food when she realizes that he is starving.
The camaraderie between the two characters, however, drives home the point that at the end of the day nothing can replace the bond that humans have with each other. Although Yoo-bin first saves Jun-woo, Jun-woo also does his fair share in helping Yoo-bin. He distracts zombies with his drone when she is under attack, and even steps out of his apartment to help Yoo-bin fight them off. Their discovery of each other, another survivor, is a new source of hope for them; it is revealed that Yoo-bin also had a noose ready in her apartment, in case, zombies break in or her resources or even her will to live run out.
The film has its fair share of zombies but only a handful of characters, heightening the sense of isolation that Jun-woo and Yoo-bin feel. The audience grows antsy with them as they question whether there are other survivors left, and if there are, if rescue is on the way. Probably intended to be a summer zombie blockbuster, #Alive unintentionally reminds the audience of the ways in which a pandemic has forced most of the world to be indoors, relying on laptops and phones to work and socialize.
The film, being only only an hour and a half, is a fast watch, and through its characters and their fight to survive makes a relevant point about the essentiality of human connection. Though many of the interactions we currently have are digital, the film reminds us to treasure those connections as much as we can.