By Alejandro Baquero (Rochester, NY)
Without any remorse or pity, and driven by a flesh and blood hungry appetite, zombies are like mosquitos. You just cannot get rid of them, and they always seem to bite you when you least expect it. Zombie movies have been part of our culture for nearly a century. Released in 1932,”White Zombie” is credited to be the first released zombie movie. Since then, we have seen the transformation of zombie films from strictly fitting into the horror genre, to now fitting into the sub-genre of horror/comedy. We have enjoyed popular horror/comedy zombie films like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Warm Bodies. #Alive can also be added to this list.
The South Korean film is a suspenseful thriller, horror/comedy, which focuses on the survival of Oh Joon-wo, a clumsy PC gamer, with minimal survival skills. With no menacing weapons, and quickly diminishing food, Oh Joon-wo is forced to transform himself from a petrified gamer into a warrior willing to go through anything to survive this zombie apocalypse. The film opens with Oh Joon-wo waking up home alone in his parents’ apartment to a seemingly normal day. He logs on to his computer to play and chat with his online friends. Three minutes into the film all hell breaks loose. Emergency alert systems start going off both on his phone and TV. He turns on the news to understand what is going on, only to learn that an unknown deadly virus that turns people into flesh hungry zombies has infected the majority of his city. He walks outside to his fourth-floor balcony only to spectate the way in which this unknown virus quickly turns citizens into zombies. Engulfed in rage, zombies start ravaging through any normal citizens they encounter. In fear that he will be bitten and infected by the virus, he decides to hunker down in his apartment and try to wait things out.
The character development of Oh Joon-wo is interesting to witness. During the first quarter of the movie, he is portrayed as an innocent, home bound young man, with no survival skills. Seven days into the apocalypse he still holds his morals and values. We can see this by the way in which he avoids killing his zombie neighbors who invaded his apartment. We also observe the way in which he apologizes to a picture of his father for taking a drink from his liquor cabinet. Desperation strikes him hard as he slurps his last bowl of noodles (the last of his real food). His water is cut-off, leaving him only with the liquor to drink. If all of that was not enough, he also discovers from a voicemail, that his family was brutally devoured by the flesh-eating zombies. It is at that moment Oh Joon-wo character changes from a petrified gamer, into a warrior willing to go through anything to get his revenge on but also survive the zombie apocalypse.
In an act of vengeance, Oh Joon-wo leaves his apartment for the first time in the movie to attack and kill and zombie in sight with his trusty golf club. Outnumbered by savage zombies, he is almost killed and is forced to retreat to his apartment, where he tries to commit suicide. Fortunately, a neighbor from the building across from his strikes contact with him before he commits suicide. She is not impressed by him at first, and even alludes to the idea that he is a moron. The two quickly engage in virtual communication and develop a quick connection with one another. A romantic relationship quickly develops between the two and they soon find each other having noodle dates through walkie-talkies. Through pairing up their gadgets, they try to escape their zombie filled building complex. The two make a run for the rooftop of Oh Joon-wo building complex, where they are spotted and saved by a helicopter rescue team searching for surviving victims.
Aside from its strong zombie graphics, the timing the movie was released caused it to be far more interesting. Released on June 24th, 2020, the film touches on the apprehension caused by isolation. If we thought the COVID-19 caused lock down was the worst thing that can happen, we must think again. Nothing is worse than being locked down by flesh eating savages waiting to dine on our brains. The relationship developed by Oh Joon-wo and his neighbor, advocate for the possibility of connections to be developed, even in a society burdened by isolation.