It’s been a minute since I’ve sat down to watch a deadly serious zombie movie. Since 2020 the world has undergone its version of the end times– one that doesn’t seem to be letting up – and I much prefer the giggle-infused Shaun of the Dead or hyper-stimulated fare like Army of the Dead over a zombie apocalypse that is exceedingly bleak and depressing. It hits too close to home, ya know? I may be in the minority, however, because 2011’s Contagion was one of the most-streamed movies during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic – masochists, I tell you! The Korean zombie apocalypse film #Alive, directed by Il Cho, also became a smashing success on Netflix that same fall. So, with these thoughts at the forefront of my mind, I settled in to see what the #Alive hype is all about. Following a panic-inducing opening that confirmed my hesitations, I was pleasantly surprised to find a film that successfully juggles said zombie horrors with an often lighthearted story about a lovable himbo who must survive the odds.
The upbeat opening credits, reminiscent of the Resident Evil games’ journey into jump-the-shark territory, appropriately follow our introduction to himbo gamer protagonist Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in). Living a lazy life sleeping in, snacking, and streaming games in his family’s high-rise Seoul apartment, he’s home alone when the outbreak commences. Not unlike the Macaulay Culkin romp, it takes Joon-woo some time to fully comprehend the gravity of his situation, and it isn’t until a neighbor lunges for his jugular in a back-cracking display of special effects that he realizes Resident Evil is at his doorstep. The film’s hashtagged title cannot be ignored here, as the modern hellscape known as the Internet, with its many distractions, plays a large part in why Joon-woo is such an endearing bobo. His matrix-heavy lifestyle leaves him at a profound disadvantage in navigating the apocalypse, yet the few skill points he has accumulated prove quite useful. #Alive smartly uses this tonal ebb and flow of utter despair and himbo lightbulb moments to provide the levity I was looking for in such dark times.
Numb to the outside world until death surrounds him, Joon-woo’s alienated life in the sky protects him from the terrors below. With its serendipitous similarities to the lockdown period of early 2020, this initially seems the antithesis of something I’d be looking to watch. What kept me interested was how relatable Joon-woo is as a character, and how we could zoom in on his humble life at home amid the chaos; my days also involved day drinking and video games during those early days of the pandemic. When low on supplies he farms for loot in neighboring apartments and even uses a drone to scout his surroundings like in a tactical RPG. It may not be much, but for a time Joon-woo gets by. After we meet his foil, the much more prepared and level-headed Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-Hye), he even creates a zipline between their apartments with the help of the handy drone. Whether it’s scavenging around the undead or Zoom chats with friends and family, technology and the Internet have their uses, bringing us together as much as they tear us apart.
Despite these boons to his success, there are downsides to relying so heavily on the tech that has seeped into every facet of our lives. We always hear that we should not take life for granted, but technology also allows for some basic human skills to fall to the wayside. Alone and unplugged, Joon-woo’s uninspired and underprepared existence clumsily faces reality in a manner that would have surely gotten him killed if not for his fortuitous location. In moments when he watches a policewoman, unable to reach her gun, get dragged into a tunnel of monsters, or when a decidedly final voicemail from his family pings through the static, hopelessness overwhelms. Succumbing to his despair, Joon-woo almost succeeds in taking his own life until the revelation of Yoo-bin’s existence across the courtyard resuscitates a shred of hope. Through their unlikely friendship, we learn that our loveable himbo has heart and courage beyond the scope of his mouse and keyboard. Suddenly, inspiration from a new party member and some time gaining real-life EXP causes Joon-woo to level up, and he’s soon facing off against zombies and deranged survivors with bravery.
Our world is rife with horror, and lately, depressing cinema has not been on my radar. We’re connected to the pulse at all times in a way that is often overwhelming, but as much as it hurts, this ultra-connectivity can sometimes do good. #Alive reminds us that all things must come in moderation, and we should be careful not to fall too far down the rabbit hole, as coming up for air can leave us struggling to remain afloat in the real world. Use technology and the Internet to your advantage, while glancing up from the glow of your screens long enough to appreciate the human experience. Become Joon-woo, evolved.
It Came From Shudder September Edition
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
I have been drowning myself in 1980s new wave/gothic music all summer, especially Bauhaus. Now that fall is here, I am doubling down with gothic cinema. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a silent German expressionist film of the Weimar Republic, follows a hypnotist who uses a sleepwalker as a vessel for murder. Visually stunning, Caligari twists viewers’ perceptions using sharp edges and shadows facilitated by an unorthodox set design that is just as much part of the art as the actual motion picture.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 (1987)
The bitch is back! I am beyond excited to revisit Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2. This offshoot of Prom Night (1980) has it all: possession, campy 1950s dialogue, a subplot about teenage pregnancy, and undeniable queerness coming from the central antagonist. The film follows girl-next-door Vicky, who, after searching for a prom dress in the drama club closet, becomes possessed by prom queen-scorned Mary Lou, a promiscuous and tenacious 1950s teen who seeks revenge on her killers. It’s a fun mix of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Carrie. I promise it will not disappoint.
The McPherson Tape (1989)
The McPherson Tape walked so The Blair Witch Project could run. The McPherson Tape is a found footage film from 1989, ten years before The Blair Witch Project became the blueprint for the future of found footage. Instead of a witch in the woods, The McPherson Tape revolves around an alien encounter during a family’s birthday celebration in 1983. Be prepared to watch this as if it were a home video you just popped into your VCR.
Queer for Fear (2022)
It has been a long time coming for this four-part series on the history of queer representation in the horror genre. Premiering September 30th with new episodes each week, Queer for Fear will discuss horror’s queer roots in the monster movies of the 1930s-1940s, make connections between horror cinema and dozens of queer histories, and how the genre has evolved since the problematic portrayals of the past. Get your notebooks ready and pencils sharpened (or just pull up your Letterboxd Watchlist), and be prepared to find some new queer horror recommendations and favorites!
‘Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey’ Trailer Out Now: Pooh and Piglet Are Out for Blood and Revenge
Move over Heffalumps and Woozles; there’s a new big bad in the hundred-acre wood.
The official trailer for Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is finally upon us, and it looks like we’re all in for quite a ride with this one.
Brought to us by Premiere Entertainment, ITN distribution, and Jagged Edge Productions, this movie has been making waves on the internet ever since first-look photos of the film were released.
The trailer shows us all that the photos are nothing in comparison.
For better or for worse, now that the original Pooh bear is in the public domain, horror is out to change the public view on the childhood favorite. As we have grown, so have the characters of the hundred-acre wood, and they are pissed that Christopher Robin abandoned them.
Directed, written, and co-produced by Rhys Waterfield, he explained in a May interview with Variety that the film carefully traverses the line between horror and comedy, seeing Pooh and Piglet revert to the ways of “feral” animals.
Judging by the trailer, they may exist like animals, but they most certainly kill like people do. While some regarded the film as childhood-ruining, I, for one, am all the way here for this slasher film. Make no mistake; this film looks bloody, violent, and fantastic.
Check out the Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey trailer for yourself and let us know what you think about the upcoming horror film.