Adventures in Streaming: #Alive

* reviews of things i found on (mostly) netflix *
* now with spoilers *

#Alive is a Netflix original. It’s a standard zombie flick, with a vague premise as to how the zombies became zombies, and an even vaguer justification for newscasters’ advice on how to stop the spread of it. It’s set in the city, in an apartment complex with a broad courtyard; the place is swimming with zombies from one building to another – although the zombies seem a bit visually impaired, they move normally, so escape seems unlikely.

Joon-Woo is a young man very much living the video-gamer life. He wakes up to find his parents and sister are not at home, and settles in to play games and enjoy the day … only to find that the world has gone to hell, and neighbours are turning on one another just outside his windows.

He was supposed to go shopping but had never gone, so his food stores quickly deplete, and his water situation isn’t much better. He believes his family to be dead, and although he’s streamed a couple of videos to the outside world, there are no services, so he doesn’t feel there’s much chance of rescue.

It’s at this point that he realizes there’s a girl (Yoo-bin) across the way who has also been barricaded in her apartment. She’s in another building of the complex – across the zombie-infested courtyard – so she might as well be on the moon, but he uses his drone to send messages to her.

The rest of the film revolves around their finding ways to communicate, to transfer food and water, to finally meet face to face, and to try to escape to the roof – typical zombie plotline, I suppose.

In fact, the plot is so typical that the movie itself comes as something of a surprise: none of the scenes seem sluggish, everything moves at a good pace and keeps the viewer’s attention, and the various elements that it shares with other zombie films actually provide a nice bringing-the-viewer-in experience – we’re pretty sure we know what’s about to happen, so rather than the tension of wondering what they’re going to face we feel the dread of certainty, and watch anxiously to see how they get out of a pit-trap we recognized all too well.

Of course it’s a girl and a boy – of course – but neither is cast in a know-it-all role; sometimes Yoo-bin knows more about something than Joon-woo, and sometimes he knows more about something than she does. Both of them exhibit bravery and clear thinking, and even when they don’t think there’s any hope, they keep moving toward escape and rescue.

Is it a wildly outside-the-box zombie tale? No, it’s pretty standard. But the characters are very likeable, the pace is decent, the atmosphere alternates effectively between serious and light-hearted, and the ultimate showdown is suitably tense and satisfying. There’s also a significant comment on the interconnectedness of online communities, something that is still criticized by people who grew up in a more face-to-face world but which has its own adaptations for creating friendships, connection, and community.

All in all, #Alive is a very good installment to a saturated genre, and well worth watching.


10 out of 10