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Tag: zombies

Reviews

Review: #Alive (2020) [Spoilers]

January 5, 2021
#Alive [Source: Forbes]

Zombies have definitely become overexposed in the past decade, but does Il Cho’s recent zombie film #Alive offer anything new? Join me as I review the Netflix original to see if it’s worth checking out.

Synopsis

Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-In), who lives with his family and spends most of his time streaming himself playing videogames, wakes up one morning to find the news talking about the spread of a disease that is causing people to become rabid and consume human flesh. He soon becomes trapped inside his parent’s apartment. Although he posts a rescue request on social media, he soon faces the prospect of surviving on his own. Driven to despair he thinks about ending his life. However, he is saved when he finds another living person in his apartment complex, Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-Hye). Finally having something to live for they both decide to manoeuvre to the top of the complex to be safer. But is it really as safe as they think?

What Did I Like?

With the themes of disease and isolation playing on everyone’s minds this year, #Alive seems very relevant. And the way it explores these themes feels quite captivating from a cinematic perspective. In the first half, the film has long stretches without dialogue. As Joon-Woo attempts to navigate through the world’s ever-growing craziness. And sometimes Joon-Woo speaks to himself or people who can’t respond. Which is a very accurate dramatic way of showcasing the isolation and growing mania of the main character. The film conveying information to the audience through television news and social media also feels very realistic. And is an effective way of placing us in Joon-woo’s perspective.

Coupled with this the film has some fantastic central performances. Yoo Ah-In is impeccable as the immature tech-obsessed Oh Joon-Woo. Managing to make us laugh at his obliviousness and over the top actions while also making us empathise with his position. Park Shin-Hye is also really good as survivalist Kim Yoo-bin. She’s very much the straight person to Joon-woo’s more animated personality, and her cold put-downs of him are very funny. Combined with this she is also a very warm presence in her private moments and she really sells her action-heavy scenes. Making her into a funny heroine who knows how to handle herself in a hairy situation but still has a very relatable human core. And special mention must go to late player Jeon Bae-soo who leaves a great impact as the only survivor on the top floor, with an outwardly inviting attitude hiding something sinister.

What Did I Not Like?

Unfortunately, #Alive is held back by much of its story feeling rather generic. Most of the film’s plot beats – the outbreak, failure of the government to respond, survivors teaming up to take on the horde – are by now standard for zombie films. Making #Alive seem very stale. While the potentially refreshing elements (the idea of facing the peril alone or how social media might affect someone’s understanding of the apocalypse) are either underdeveloped or are jettisoned by the halfway point. Which leaves the film feeling like just another zombie movie with some half-hearted gimmicks added on.

The production work is also lacking. With the constant jump cuts being very distracting; making the film seem rather amateurish instead of contributing to any sort of presentational effect. The lacklustre musical score also adds little to the overall experience. Not to mention the only standout visual decision is to incorporate drone footage into the narrative. Otherwise, the film’s visual presentation is very conventional. Leaving little of interest from a stylistic perspective.

Finally, the film’s climax feels very out of step with the rest of the film. With the ever-darkening tone suddenly dropped for a hopeful ending. It sees the two main characters rescued by the army because of Joon-Woo’s social media post. Not only does this feel tonally contrary to the rest of the movie but it also feels very implausible. As the post was made days before the rescue effort. Meaning there was no guarantee that the main characters were still alive. So why would army resources be used on this? And with the film focusing little on social media outside of the first act, this conclusion feels inappropriate.

Verdict

#Alive has some great central performances. As well as some unique ideas for how to explore isolation and the spread of disease. With that said #Alive is let down by not committing to its more interesting ideas. The result is a project that despite some inventive ingredients ultimately becomes like every other zombie movie. Which is further diminished by some poor production decisions. As well as the out-of-place conclusion. Consequently #Alive is little more than a fun disposable distraction. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

#Alive (Official Trailer)

Also Read: A Quiet Place 2: A Film Too Far?

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Editorials

The Perfect Post-Apocalyptic Holidays

January 9, 2019

One thing Hollywood and I have in common is an obsession with the collapse of civilisation and the end of the world. I’m not quite sure what fuels this but perhaps it’s just interesting to see how people react to catastrophe. Maybe a brief holiday to some of these destinations can satisfy our curiosity rather than being condemned to a lifetime of it. So whether it’s an admittedly brief singles holiday in Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World or a pub crawl to The World’s End the apocalypse brings up a lot of interesting holiday opportunities.

Road Trips, Cruise & Train Journeys

The nuclear weapon devastated world of Mad Max is the perfect getaway for a car aficionado who’s looking for some adventure. You can take a road trip down the legendary Fury Road and marvel at the eccentrically dressed gearheads who are all too keen to demonstrate how their amazing vehicles work.

Those looking for some live entertainment should check out The Thunderdome in Bartertown where semi-willing participants take part in a very extreme form of theatre – you’ll not find more committed performers anywhere in the world. Due to sparse retail opportunities make sure to bring plentiful water, petrol and ammunition.

Many people love cruises although being trapped on a floating prison for weeks, or even months on end with the same people already sounds like the end of the world to me. But if that sounds appealing Waterworld may be the apocalypse for you. You can sail and swim to your heart’s content, however, despite spending a huge amount on this vacation spot many visitors found it a massive letdown.

Your friendly cruise director, Waterworld (IMDb)

We’ve all heard how wonderful a trip on the Orient Express is – if a little murdery – so recreate the golden age of train travel on board the best train the post-apocalypse has to offer: Snowpiercer. Passengers can enjoy fresh sushi or even the more interesting culinary delights in the lower-class section before moving forward to a world-class nightclub in a train! Snowpiercer is constantly crisscrossing the globe so you can see the Empire State Building buried by snow and…the Taj Mahal buried by snow. Warning – I know we’ve all done it but don’t try and sneak into the first-class carriage if you don’t have the right ticket as they are really strict about that. If you get caught paying a fine will be the least of your worries.

City Breaks

For those who want to rest and be pampered at the same time why not enjoy a stay in The Matrix? You can enjoy long baths and uninterrupted sleep while at the same time luxuriating in the pinnacle of human civilization – the late 1990s, enjoying pre-broadband internet, mobile phones you had to flip open and the dawn of reality television.

Be on the lookout for overly-officious government agents and very eager people pushing red and blue pills. And for those environmentalists amongst you don’t worry – this world uses extremely renewable energy.
Perhaps it’s my age showing but I can’t think of a better historical period to be trapped in for my entire life. This is my idea of the perfect holiday and have always thought our robot overlords set up a very nice post-apocalypse for us.

Family Getaways

For some people family comes first and if you’re looking to bond why not go to The Road? Yes, on first glance it’s possibly the bleakest and most horrible of all post-apocalyptic worlds but you can forge an everlasting father-son relationship. You’ll go on a very, very slow roadtrip taking in scenic views of dead forests, barren fields and gruesome remains. Personally I can’t abide a world that promises an acting masterclass from Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron and then only gives us a few minutes of the latter.

Family fun in The Road (IMDb)

Those with larger families why not take a country house in It Comes At Night – make boarding up windows, collecting water and dealing with the infected a fun family activity! And nothing stokes family unity like the fear of any and all outsiders, whether they simply want to steal your food or are infected with the mysterious but deadly plague that has wiped out billions it’s best to avoid them.

If you’re sick of your hustle and noise of the city – or just your family – A Quiet Place is a wonderful respite. Your children really will learn that silence is golden and you can enjoy countless hours of reading, lying very still and trying not to scream in pain.

The Zombie Experience

Zombies might seem the perfect way to ruin a holiday – after all who wants flesh-eating nearly unstoppable monsters attacking them? Well if you decide to hole up somewhere comfortable it’s not so bad. Do you want an old-fashioned lock-in at a real London pub? Then stop by the Winchester and once the zombie hordes arrive there will be no getting you out.

Enjoying a genuine London pub with friends, Shaun of the Dead (IMDb)

How about going to Zombieland and enjoying the last functioning theme park in the world Pacific Playland? It has exciting rides, sort-of friendly clowns and security is provided by a cowboy-hat wearing Woody Harrelson? Zombieland is also well known for it’s celebrity guests and they are all from the tippy-top of the Hollywood tree.

Some people pick their holiday destinations based on where they can do some great shopping and Dawn of the Dead offers you two fantastic malls in Monroeville. Whether you prefer the more sedate 1970s experience or fast-paced shopping trip from the mid 2000s they’ve got you covered. You’ll have plenty of time to explore shops as stays can last for months. The mall even comes with it’s own shuttle buses which a lucky few actually get to work on!

So there you have it: adventure, relaxation, luxury, whatever you want for a holiday experience the post-apocalyptic world can provide it!

Reviews

Retro Review: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

November 11, 2018

Modern horror owes so much to the original Night of the Living Dead. It ushered the zombie away from voodoo towards flesh-eating, tackled socially relevant issues like racism and the apocalyptic overtones that permeated the 60’s. Something not many horror films did at the time. It challenged audiences’ expectations with its story, and like Halloween, showcased what can be accomplished on a low budget. But legendary films are often lost in the legacy they create. Years of continual praise can put newcomers off and throws the film’s flaws sharply into view. So, on its 50th Anniversary let’s see how kind time has been to Night of the Living Dead.

The story

While visiting their father’s grave, Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) are attacked by a ragged man. Johnny is killed, and Barbra flees. Coming across a local farmhouse, she eventually meets Ben (Duane Jones). As night comes, the house is swarmed by creatures, later revealed to be re-animated corpses. Ben and Barbra also discover Harry (Karl Hardman), Hellen (Marilyn Eastman) and their sick daughter Karren Cooper and a young couple, Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley) held up in the basement. And soon arguing erupts as the people in the house must decide whether to barricade themselves in or run for it? Soon it becomes clear that the zombies may not be the biggest danger to the living.

What did I like?

Night of the living dead is a film we truly take for granted. Because the film influenced every zombie story that came after, it is easy to see it as “another zombie movie”. But NOTLD does many things that help you see why it set the standard for its genre.

The zombies, although quaint by today’s standards, are perfectly realized through the makeup and black and white cinematography. Helping the undead look like truly damaged humans. And the escalating tension they create as the night continues helps us feel the characters peril. The story is also a well-told exploration of the breakdown of communication in extreme circumstances. Reason and emotional concerns are brushed aside by survival driven macho posturing or destroyed by the uncaring zombies. The film firmly believes, human nature is the most destructive of all things, with the film’s ending is the perfect summation of that,  Still having the power to shock even now. But the film owes its success, primarily to its independent edge.

The actors were not big names and the film was shot for only $114,000. As a result, the film has so many little elements that set it apart from the mainstream horror being offered at the time. The dialogue flubs that hurt other films make this one feel more genuine. The seemingly unrehearsed nature of the fight scenes and the zombie’s movements make the film feel less staged and the dialogue and characters all feel distinct.

Night of the Living Dead takes a subtle approach to its characters. In the film, Ben’s race is never once mentioned in dialogue. There is no racist language or drawing attention to his skin colour. Ben is just another person. His race is a part of him, but it does not define his role in the story. And some may view Barbra as a typical female in distress, but the film makes it clear that none of these people are heroes. They are just people and the actions that they take are an almost perfect reflection of who their characters are. As a result, the film creates a unique world with interestingly flawed and relatable characters that we can easily see as reflections of the real world.

What I do not like?

However, all movies, no matter how iconic have flaws that future filmmakers can learn from. The films biggest flaw is the explanation for the zombie’s creation. In this case, radiation from a crashed space station. Although it may have seemed appropriate at the time, with the space race still in full swing, now it serves only to demystify the zombies and takes away from the terror of the unknown. In the sequel, Dawn of the Dead, the zombie’s origins became much more shrouded in mystery and hearsay. But Night presents the space station as the only viable factor in the zombie’s creation. And with such attention paid to it, the fear of the flesh-eaters diminishes.

The film also has a quite boring second act. The beginning perfectly sets up the characters and the threat and the ending is a brilliantly sour note that leaves the audience reflecting on the film long after they have finished watching. But the second act feels a bit repetitive by constantly going back and forth on the same disagreements between Ben and Harry. The scenes are well acted and relevant. But as a whole, the second act feels like the bland filling to the tasty bread that populates both ends of the story.

Finally, there are presentational elements that are likely to be distracting for some. The flubs and limited choreography for myself make the film feel more real. Some viewers, however, will view them as amateur mistakes, and they are not wrong for doing so. And the use of still photos to present certain sections of the narrative, while effective for the films ending, giving it the disturbing look of dispassionate war photography, serve only to distract in the television scenes. As they feel entirely separate from the rest of the production.

Verdict

All in all, Night of the Living Dead still holds up from a modern perspective. The flaws of being too exposition heavy regarding key plot points, a slow second act and some of the corner cutting necessitated by the budget do not damage the overall project and the legacy it left behind. The film is a deft exploration of the worst side of humanity, that never lets its social commentary diminish the entertainment. It has memorable characters, set pieces, a fantastic beginning, and truly devastating ending. If you are a fan of zombies or films in general and you have not watched night of the living dead, you need to fix that right away. Because like the undead themselves, NOTLD may seem old and decrepit, but once it sinks its teeth in, you will find yourself becoming a fan.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)