TL;DR – A very compelling look at a zombie outbreak at a school and the carnage that would leave in its wake but one that goes on for a bit too long.
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this series.
All of Us Are Dead Review –
The Zombie genre is one that has been played out in many regards. However, if there is one place that can still create something new in this space, it is South Korea, where you can get visually fascinating stories, but ones that also hit on an emotional level. When I heard that there was a new series on Netflix that hit all these marks, well, I had to check it out.
So to set the scene, it is an ordinary day at Hyosan High School, with the students cleaning the school after class. However, while most of the school goes home, one student falls asleep in the Science Lab. When Kim Hyeon-ju (Jung Yi-seo) wakes up, she hears a noise in the supply room, where there is a tiny mouse in the cage that just so happens to bite her. The science teacher Lee Byeong-chan (Kim Byung-chul), notices the bite and kidnaps the student. The next day Nam On-jo (Park Ji-hu), Lee Cheong-san (Yoon Chan-young), Choi Nam-ra (Cho Yi-hyun), Han Gyeong-su (Ham Sung-min) and their friends make their way to school when the missing student is found in an agitated state. People think the science teacher drugged her, but they don’t know that she is turning into a zombie and that one bite is all it will take to spread the virus. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
There is a lot to unpack in this season, but one of the things I liked is the way it explored some fascinating themes. At the core of this disaster is how people are belittled and bullied and how the rest of the world turns a blind eye to it. You see, parents feel like they are failures for not protecting their children, you see those who are bullied be debased, and those who are the bullies get away with it because their power is too great. There is this moment when two kids that are being bullied walk back to be tormented more because it will be worse if they leave. There needs to be a complete collapse of responsibility for something like that to transpire, and you see it everywhere. At any moment, the police or the school could have put a stop to it. The warning cry of ‘the review’ not ‘the student’ casts a long shadow over the show.
I also liked how it incorporated social media into the proceedings. Even though most of the messages are not translated, the ones that are fit perfectly in what you would expect there to be in a world like this. I have seen streams with the exact same vibe before, and I think they nailed its incorporation. To add to this, on the whole, I think the production was top notch. Every part of the school felt believable, even though it looked like a mix of practical locations, CGI extensions, and rebuilt sets. I also liked how they created their zombies with a combination of make-up, choreography, and sound design that will stick in your brain for a long time after you have watched this show. Indeed, there are scenes where we have a lot of zombies in the frame, and that must have been a stunt nightmare to work out.
Another strength of the show was the acting, where I think most of the cast nailed that sense of being caught up in an impossible situation. Because they are kids, there is a lot more leeway with their actions because you know they are approaching a scenario with a more emotional worldview. Overall, they are also well written given the situation, okay, well, at least in the first half of the series. The highlight for me was the students who get bitten but don’t wholly turn because they were given such a wide gambit of emotions to play with. From a narrative perspective, I think it all panned out in the end. However, it would be best if you were prepared for certain aspects of the show [like how long a bite takes to affect someone] to happen inconsistently at the speed of plot.
While I did enjoy my time with the series, some parts of the show started to frustrate me as we went on. The first is the pacing. There was a point where I was sitting there going, ‘okay, cool, I can see where we are heading and how the endgame will come together. I wonder how many episodes they have left … wait, I’m not halfway yet?’. There is a lot of shifting from one sedentary location to the next, repeating the same plot points, and it felt like some of these could have been condensed. As well as this, the show has a habit of ending the episodes on a cliffhanger, i.e. “Oh no, he just got stabbed’ only to start the next episode with ‘lol, we fooled you’. In the age of binging and streaming, you only have one shot to pull that off before you hit diminishing returns real quick. Finally, there are some emotional moments towards the end of the show when characters act as if the rest of the season didn’t happen, and they have no idea of the consequences of faffing around.
In the end, do we recommend All of Us Are Dead? Well, yes, or at least, yes if you are a fan of this genre. If you are not, then I think the gore will probably put you off, and it might be a struggle to get through it. I think by the end of episode 2, you will know if this is a show for you or not.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of All of Us Are Dead
Directed by – Chun Sung-il
Written by – Lee Jae-kyoo & Kim Nam-su
Based on – Now at Our School by Joo Dong-geun
Production/Distribution Companies – JTBC Studios, Kim Jong-hak Production & Netflix
Starring – Park Ji-hu, Yoon Chan-young, Cho Yi-hyun, Park Solomon, Yoo In-soo, Lee Yoo-mi, Kim Bo-yoon, Kim Joo-ah, Im Jae-hyuk, Son Sang-yeon, Kim Jin-young, Ham Sung-min, Ahn Seung-gyun, Ha Seung-ri, Lee Eun-saem, Jin Ho-eun, Yang Han-yeol, Oh Hye-soo, Ahn Ji-ho, Jung Yi-seo, Lee Chae-eun, Lee Min-goo, Oh Hee-joon & Shin Jae-hwi with Kim Byung-chul, Lee Sang-hee, Yoon Byung-hee, Ahn Si-ha, Yoon Kyung-ho, Um Hyo-sup, Lee Kyu-hyung, Park Jae-chul, Jeon Bae-soo, Woo Ji-hyun, Dong Hyun-bae, Lee Ji-hyun, Bae Hae-sun & Jo Dal-hwan
Episodes Covered – Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11 & Episode 12