There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
2020 Netflix Halloween Countdown
As crazy as it is to believe, it is already October 2020—it has been a bizarre year, for sure. For the past three years, I have been spending October watching and reviewing some of the spooky, scary, gory, chilling, and horror-themed movies on Netflix. With each review, I will include a table that ranks these movies from best to worst. This year will be my fourth year doing this, and I plan on publishing a new review each day. Some will be from movies that I have reviewed before, but there will be some new movies on here is well. So if you are looking to get in the Halloween spirit by watching some Halloween-style movies, then these articles are for you!
Oh Joon-woo (Ah-In Yoo) has woken up to discover that he is home alone. His parents and sister are away, so he has the apartment to himself, but his mother has left a note suggesting that he should go to the grocery store, as they have very little food in the apartment. Oh Joon-woo, however, gets a late start to his day, and is in no particular rush to go to the store. He instead chooses to play video games for awhile, but he soon discovers that something is horribly wrong.
Hearing the panic coming from the hallway, and hearing the greater panic coming from the streets below, Oh Joon-woo opens his window and turns on the news to see what is going on. Some sort of virus has found its way to the city. It makes those who have become infected go crazy. They become violent, they become hostile, and they become cannibalistic—transmitting the virus through bites or scratches. Oh Joon-woo is home alone so he hopes he can lie low and avoid the attention of the infected, but his limited food supply will eventually leave him with no choice but to venture outside his apartment.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Premise (+4pts)
Zombies & Dumbness (-3pts)
The Chapters (+4pts)
The Suspense (+4pts)
Pro: The Premise (+4pts)
We have seen many zombie movies before. In some, the zombies move slow. In others, the zombies move fast. However, for the most part, the overall story in these zombie movies are the same. There is a virus that catches the world off-guard, and a protagonist or small group of protagonists have to do whatever they can to survive, usually with one member of the group having been bitten or scratched and not telling the rest of the group. We have all seen that movie before, so new zombie movies have to do something different. This movie was not entirely original, it still had the expected progression of a zombie outbreak story, but the interesting twist was making the protagonist a young guy who was home alone to himself.
This made it feel like a stranded-at-sea story, in a way. This character was in his own apartment, sure, but any hope for help was far, far away, and he had limited supplies. We then got to see all of his resources (cellular data, internet, power, water, etc.) being taken away from him one-by-one, which made his situation progressively worse as time went on, in addition to the dwindling food supply. We also had to see him piecing everything together alone in his apartment. It was your typical zombie story, but the little twist of having the protagonist home alone made the beginning of this movie—which would usually be a cookie-cutter setup to a zombie story—more unique and more compelling than it would have been if the protagonist was with a group or was out and about somewhere in the city.
Con: Zombies & Dumbness (-3pts)
This is not uncommon in a zombie movie, but the zombies in this movie were pretty inconsistent in terms of what they were able to detect and how strong they were. The zombies' capabilities were simply used inconsistently, depending on what the filmmakers needed from them at any given time. In some scenes zombies were able to use critical thinking skills to pick up a string, trace the string to where it came from, assume that there was someone alive at that location, then scale a building. In other scenes, they were just mindless, bumbling, nameless, faceless monsters. In some scenes they could hear someone who was relatively quiet in an apartment (with the zombies being in the hallway), and in other scenes they could not hear someone opening and closing doors directly behind them. The filmmakers had these monsters and were pretty inconsistent in terms of what they were able to do and what they were able to notice. The filmmakers seemed to rewrite their capabilities whenever it was convenient for the story, and that is just lazy writing.
Then there was the overall dumbness of the main character. I will provide no context to these examples to avoid spoilers, but this guy made some dumb decisions. There was the selfie-stick thing, which he had already seen go horribly wrong for someone else. Then there was the scene where he screamed at the zombies who had claimed another victim, when there was absolutely nothing to gain from doing so, and everything to lose. There were a few other examples, but I think you get my point. Characters making dumb decisions to add suspense is nothing new to the horror genre, but that does not excuse new filmmakers from leaning on that crutch, as I think it is another form of lazy writing.
Pro: The Chapters (+4pts)
The filmmakers kept this movie from getting too mundane by separating the story into chapters. The first chapter was all about Oh Joon-woo figuring out what was going on, lying low, and figuring out how to survive on his own. The second chapter was about him realizing that he was not as alone as he thought, and it was about him communicating with the company he now had—I definitely enjoyed the dynamic that Oh Joon-woo and Kim Yoo-bin (Shin-Hye Park) had, and I thought that Shin-Hye Park was a refreshing addition to the movie. The third chapter was about him trying to meet the other person, with the hopes of riding this thing out together. I think the filmmakers realized that they had what could have been a very typical zombie story. By separating the plot into three different chapters—with three different goals from the main character—they were able to keep switching things up, which prevented the story from feeling stale.
Con: Lulls (-4pts)
While I thought splitting this story into a few different chapters was a great idea, and it was mostly effective at keeping the story fresh, there were still a few lulls in here. One such lull was during the first chapter. It was once we had come to terms with what was happening, and were watching Oh Joon-woo basically just doing random stuff to pass the time. It was mildly entertaining at times, but I thought the filmmakers should have moved on from this part of the movie sooner, or they should have added something else into this part of the story to keep it interesting.
The second lull came toward the end of chapter two, once Oh Joon-woo and his new friend had already been communicating and helping one another for a bit. It hit a point where it was basically like watching a sitcom, with the zombies surrounding them feeling pretty irrelevant. Neither of these lulls lasted long, but both managed to lose quite a bit of the suspense that the rest of the movie had managed to build. Neither of these sections were outright boring, but I thought both sections could have used some more attention from the filmmakers, in order to keep things interesting and entertaining.
Pro: The Suspense (+4pts)
As all over the place as the filmmakers were with the zombies and their capabilities, the filmmakers did a good job of maintaining suspense throughout the movie. Whenever I felt like the protagonists were getting too comfortable, the filmmakers put them in danger. Whenever the protagonists were in the middle of something that left them somewhat preoccupied, the filmmakers put zombies right outside their doors. Were the filmmakers inconsistent with what the zombies were capable of? Absolutely, and did that inconsistency bother me? It sure did, but the filmmakers chose their moments carefully, and they effectively put the protagonists in harms way as soon as I started getting comfortable with what was happening on screen. The result was a movie with plenty of exciting moments that had me on the edge of my seat periodically throughout the movie.
Con: Convenient (-4pts)
There were a lot of really convenient moments in this movie. Some of these were convenient for the protagonist, but all of them were convenient for the writers. The most obvious example of this was the helicopter moment, but some other moments were the tons of coincidences that led to zombies getting close to getting the protagonists in order to add suspense. Some of these coincidences were more obvious than others, but the frequency of these coincidental moments, and the impact that they had on the plot of the movie, made it obvious that this movie suffered from quite a bit of lazy writing.
Grade: C+ (76pts)
#Alive looked promising. The title made me roll my eyes a bit, as it felt like the filmmakers were trying too hard to be trendy. Nonetheless, this was a movie about a zombie outbreak in which the main character was home alone when the whole thing started. This premise gave a little unique flavor to an otherwise predictable genre, as it was your typical outbreak storyline, but with the added stipulation of making the main character feel stranded in his own apartment. It really felt like he was stuck on a deserted island, with the only difference being that he was surrounded by zombies instead of an ocean. As interesting as this premise was, the filmmakers knew when their story needed to evolve into something else.
The filmmakers had the hindsight to know when to move on from one part of the story, and shift it into something different, which helped prevent the movie from feeling long and unnecessarily drawn out. There were a few lulls here and there, but the filmmakers were able to pull me back in before very long, through the use of some well timed suspenseful moments. One frustrating part of this movie was the lazy writing. There were coincidences everywhere, coincidences that were clearly nothing more than a lazy writer's way out of a given situation. Then there were the horrible decisions that the main character made, and the wildly inconsistent zombies—inconsistent in terms of what they were able to do and hear. This movie had its strengths and it had its weaknesses, and it ended up being one of those movies where the two mostly canceled each other out. It was not a bad movie, but it could have been quite a bit better than it was.
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