#Alive (Film Review)

Is anybody out there?


  • Yoo Ah In as Oh Joon Woo
  • Park Shin Hye as Kim Yoo Bin


  • Korean
  • Director: Cho Il Sung
  • Running time: 98 minutes
  • Release date: September 8, 2020 (Netflix)

Quick Rundown:

Gaming livestreamer, Oh Joon Woo, wakes up one day to find his family gone and a dangerous virus spreading through the city turning people into zombies. Trapped inside his apartment while people succumb to the mysterious virus, Joon Woo has no choice but to keep himself locked indoors with no end in sight. As his food supply dwindles and is on the verge of giving up, he meets fellow survivor, Kim Yoo Bin, in the opposite apartment building. Stranded in their respective apartments, they must learn to survive on their own and together.


Anna’s Take

I can’t recall if I mentioned on the blog before that I’m a big Yoo Ah In fan; so much so that I scheduled a weekend trip to NYC to watch Burning in a small arthouse theatre. Needless to say, I was very, very excited that Alive was arriving on Netflix just in time for #spookyszn. Set and shot entirely in one apartment complex while a mysterious illness rages on outside, this movie seemed to mirror what all of us are collectively experiencing in quarantine. By basing its story on the characters’ desperation to survive a pandemic while still trying to keep sane in isolation with just social media for entertainment, Alive felt timely and very representative of the situation that we’ve all found ourselves in for 2020. 

If you’re looking for a horror flick full of gore and jump scares, Alive is not that movie. If you’re ever seen shows like The Walking Dead or any other well-known zombie content out there, nothing in this film will feel particularly new or revolutionary. Over the 90+ minutes running time, the plot unfolds in a predictable fashion: boy finds himself alone during a zombie pandemic, meet-cute with girl, boy and girl fight zombies, etc. But after peeling back some of those outer layers, you may find that Alive has some universal themes that apply to all of us as we all try to survive 2020 in one piece, zombies or not. Feelings of loneliness and depression when you’re trapped indoors 24/7, anxiety about what’s going on in the outside word, fear about the future; those are all sentiments that we can relate to. 

Yoo Ah In and his standard excellent acting added depth to the character even when the dialogue and plot didn’t. Filming in just a few rooms and corridors of the apartment complex, he somehow made these surroundings feel vast and empty but still claustrophobic. Yoo was able to even bring out some decent acting from his costar Park Shin Hye, whose over-the-top expressions we’re all very familiar with. Park’s acting was not exactly laudable, but it was much better than what she usually gives us in dramas. I didn’t care for the hints of romance between their characters, but then again, I didn’t particularly care much about the actual movie plot itself. Again, what I was more intrigued and impressed by was how Alive was able to make this fictional story feel so familiar and realistic. 

Alive doesn’t add anything new to the zombie genre, and will definitely not go down in history as a classic. But, if you’re interested (and brave enough) in watching a film that mirrors our predicament in 2020, then you will find some value in this. Sometimes, the real world is a lot scarier than the make-believe one. 


Estelle’s Take

I’m not a huge fan of zombie movies or dramas because I’m a wimp, but my husband loved Train to Busan and to some extent was excited about Kingdom so he heard about this movie before I did (surprise surprise!). In recent years I’ve also grown to appreciate Korean zombie movies because they are, frankly, more tastefully done than American ones that are just out there to scare you for the sake of scaring you. Alive does fulfill the expectation that I had in not just being a horror film with grotesque beings trying to eat your brains out, but it lacked a lot of the depth I have been used to and grown to look forward to.

Those of you who have read my previous posts probably know by now that I’m not a Park Shin Hye fan because I’ve always thought her acting is lackluster. She remains much the same in Alive, pretty placid and boring. Does this girl ever emote? Her face stayed emotionless the entire time, and I found myself not really caring much for her character. On the other hand, Yoo Ah In is a much better actor – he is able to show the dimensions of his character, falling into despair and rising out of it with a determination to survive. However, I don’t think either of them could’ve saved the movie from its lack of plot complexity and character development.

Sure, there are certainly some brief moments of excitement where I found myself rooting for the characters’ survival, but I also found myself scrolling through my phone notifications here and there. So, what does that tell us? It definitely did not have me at the edge of my seat. The movie may be called Alive, but it felt pretty zombified to me.

This & That:

  • #Alive is based on an original script written by Hollywood screenwriter, Matt Naylor.
  • Yoo Ah In will be starring in the Netflix original, Hellbound, which is scheduled to air in 2021. 
  • Park Shin Hye is starring another Netflix film, Call, with Jeong Jong Seo. The film will be released on November 27, 2020. 
    • Jeong was Yoo’s co-star in the acclaimed Korean film, Burning (2018). 

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