I decided to watch the latest Korean zombie show, All of Us Are Dead, which premiered on Netflix this past week. With 12 episodes and an ensemble cast of varied characters, there’s a lot to cover but I will try to keep it short. This “review” is just my thoughts and not intended to be seen as a formal review since I didn’t take any specific notes and just leisurely watched the drama. Due to this, I may have forgotten some details, so please bear with me.
The show wastes no time in pulling you into the action by showing a bullied student be nearly beaten to death by some bullies on the rooftop of some building in the city of Hyosan. The bullied student ends up fighting back only to fall off the roof and land himself into the hospital, but it is clear during the fight the student is suffering from some weird effects we clearly realize is related to the zombie virus. Later, in the hospital, a man who is the father of the bullied student and a science teacher at Hyosan High school, Lee Byeongcheol, visits his son only to beat him to unconsciousness with a Bible because his son is at the point of no return.
We later learn that this man, Byeongcheol, is at the creator of the virus. He was experimenting on mice to create a serum that would increase the aggression and physical strength of a person because he wanted to help his bullied son to stand up to his bullies since no one was helping as is usuallly the case in these situations. Unfortunately, these mice were in his lab at the high school and thus quickly becomes ground zero once a female student, coincidentally one of the bullies, is bitten and spreads the virus through the school. And thus, begins the tale of survival for our protagonists against a corrupted world where zombies aren’t the only problem to worry about.
The Main Group
Choi Namra: The class president studious, cold, and aloof. She appears not to like the others much and the feeling is mutual until the zombie crisis changes everything.
Lee Suhyeok: A former bully who rehabilitated. He is good friends with Cheongsan and clearly has a crush on the class president.
Lee Cheongsan: A friend of Suhyeok and a pretty average student overall (though is strong, too). He is also good childhood friends with Onju and has a crush on her. Kind of the hero of the group.
Nam Onju: Cheongsan’s childhood friend. She has a crush on Suhyeok and confesses to him at the beginning of the series. She is usually the mediator and basically the angel of the group (“I don’t want to see any more people die”).
The Others in the Main Group:
I won’t go over these guys because it’s not too necessary. Admittedly, considering this is an ensemble cast, some characters felt a bit underwritten while some were just fine. With the exception of Nayeon, who ends up leaving the group in episode 3, everyone else sticks with the group to the end (or until they turn into a zombie). I also didn’t include a couple friends of the main leads because they end up turning pretty quickly (both by episode 3), so not much to write about there. I still included Nayeon as opposed to the two friends because I felt she left more of an impression on me than the other two.
The Archery Group
These two girls were ones I liked quite a bit in the show. Hari is an archer who has done the sport for basically her whole life. Her brother is Woojin, who is a year below her as a sophomore. Park Mijin seems to just be the usual bad student who has poor grades and smokes, but she is also a bit surprisingly caring and compassionate as she refused until the last minute to give up on an injured student who was slowing the group down. Said injured student and another guy were part of this group but I felt these two were the most important to note.
The Ones to Watch Out For
These two are the special cases. Both turn into zombies but while the virus changes their bodies, it does not take over their mind completely. They are perfectly sentient, if not more aggressive as seen in Gwinam’s obsessive pursuit of Cheongsan and Eunji, who was formerly a defenseless bullied outcast, now is seen taking her vengeance on some of her wrongdoers and the school itself (she attempts to burn it down at one point). I have to admit, their existence was an interesting concept that I hadn’t quite seen before in zombie films so I give this show a plus for that.
Along with the teacher, who is not pictured here, these two guys were the GOATs when it came to adults in the show. Song Jaeik is a detective at the police department in Hyosan and was the one who was interrogating Byeongcheol about the virus and his role in the chaos happening at the school. He learns about a laptop Byeongcheol kept which held video logs of his research and so he is tasked with telling someone to retrieve it from Hyosan High School. Along the way, he gains a partner, takes in a newborn baby and a child who just lost their mother and saves a rather stupid man who was streaming the zombie apocalypse. Truly, a selfless man.
On the other hand, you have Nam Soju, a firefighter of the Hyosan fire department and the father of Onju. He makes it to a survivor camp, but still busts out of it in order to go save his daughter who he rightly believes is still stuck at the school. He took a major risk and knew the cost but he still manages to meet up with his daughter only to sacrifice himself shortly after to help her and the others get away. Even after his death, he helps the kids because before he died, he tied ribbons on trees to help the kids get back to the main road from the mountains. What a guy.
Overall, I would give this show a 6.5 out of 10 (Average). It wasn’t too shabby and I was thoroughly entertained to the point that getting through a 12 episode show where each episode was about an hour long didn’t feel too much like a chore. I will say that some characterization fell a bit flat and some story points left me wondering what exactly was the point. For instance, my brother questioned the purpose of the pregnant girl in the show who gave birth to a baby. He wondered why she was even in the show to begin with. I tried to think about it and wondered if a clearer answer would present itself by the end of episode 12, but not really. It felt like the baby was just used either to round out the detective’s character more or was just a prop for emotional impact. Not sure really.
I will also say, I felt like I enjoyed the second main leads, Namra and Suhyeok, more than Onju and Cheongsan surprisingly. I felt the latter two were a bit more plain perhaps because of their good nature. Maybe I wanted to see more depth which we get with Namra, specifically, as she eventually has to juggle her zombie instincts and trying to retain some of her humanity after she gets bitten. I think she was one of my favourites of the show actually.
All in all, I would watch this if you’re not too tired by all the zombie series and movies out there as All of Us Are Dead offers some refreshing perspectives on the overpopulated zombie genre, but don’t expect anything too exceptional. Just enjoy it as a casual watch with some emotional moments interspersed here and there that will make watching it pretty worth it.