Finally, a fresh and original take on the classic and slightly stale zombie genre — is how I would describe the 2016 Korean film Train to Busan. All of Us Are Dead, on the other hand, feels like a fanfiction piece created by a young adult writer dipping their toes in the zombie scene for the first time. Filled with awkward lines, ridiculous writing to further the plot and an incredibly out-of-place setup for season two, this show fails in every aspect where Train to Busan had surprised us six years ago. Despite its somewhat popular reception, it is undoubtedly just the latest addition to the list of lackluster Korean zombie shows.
The premise of the show is rather touching compared to most origins of a zombie virus: After his son, Lee Cheong-san, is repeatedly bullied to the brink of suicide, a genius scientist turned highschool teacher Lee Byeong-chan creates a virus from mutated mice hormones as a last-ditch attempt to end his son’s abuse. Predictably, the virus backfires, zombifying Cheong-san rather than saving him. Byeong-chan stealthily captures his son and quarantines him in their home while desperately trying to find a cure. Some time later, an unsuspecting student stumbles upon the mutated mice while cleaning the science lab at Byeong-chan’s school and gets bitten in the process. Once again, Byeong-chan is quick to capture the student, chaining her up in the storage room of the lab; this time, however, she escapes and ends up infecting the rest of Korea.
The Netflix show follows a group of trapped high schoolers from Byeong-chan’s school, with the main protagonists being Lee Cheong-san, Nam On-jo and Lee Su-hyeok. Together, they struggle to survive in the infested school, scrounging for food and water while waiting for help from the government.
All of Us Are Dead weaves the storylines of multiple characters well, maintaining the suspense that keeps thriller fans at the edge of their seats. Yet, what had seemed initially promising is hindered by a stereotypical, cringey teenage love triangle that cropped up at the worst of times, like a filler episode right at the crescendo of a story. Even worse — as if a young adult love triangle amidst zombies wasn’t bad enough — an unkillable villain is shoehorned in and given the blandest personality out of all the characters. Small inconsistencies will also annoy viewers who enjoy continuity; some people turn into zombies very quickly, while others seem to take forever. Furthermore, as yet another source of agitation, zombies are supposed to be very fast in this show, but certain zombies move slowly for dramatic effect.
And while most zombie films and shows seem to express some sort of commentary on social issues or ethical dilemmas, All of Us Are Dead ends unceremoniously with no clear direction or message. Instead, it dedicates its finale to a confusing and utterly nonsensical setup for a prospective season two, leaving viewers scratching their heads at an unexciting cliffhanger. It certainly does the job for a quick twelve-episode thrill, but with no nuance and depth to the story overall, All of Us Are Dead misses out on all the potential greatness that would otherwise place it at the top of the zombie apocalypse genre.
Brian Lu is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].