All of Us Are Dead
Cast: Yoon Chan-young, Park Ji-hoo, Cho Yi-hyun
Score: 2.5 stars
What do you imagine when ou think of a zombie apocalypse? An image complete with graphic details of people being brutally ripped limb from limb, while survivors struggle to do so much as breathe while the tension between them slowly reaches breaking point? Unfortunately, on that nte, Netflix’s All of Us Are Dead is pitifully middling.
That is not to say that the acting, which remains a key requirement for any video media, is bad – but more on that later.
Between Hellbound closing out 2021 and this series beginning 2022, it appears that Netflix is in the midst of a webtoon adaptation bonanza. While that in itself is not something to be averse of, the issue remains that All of Us Are Dead is not a particularly good zombie show. What it is, however, is a good disaster show.
The story begins in a South Korean high school, where bullying is rampant (to the point of literal murder and sexual assault) and there appears to be a wall between the so-called ‘welfies’ and rich people. And in the midst of it all is a scientist-teacher gone mad at the loss of his son, who unintentionally releases a virus that turns people into raving, flesh-hungry creatures. Yes, zombies, bog-standard zombies.
Caught in this mess are a group of kids with enough tension between them to virtually cut the zombies apart, as they struggle to survive while the school – and the town beyond – is quickly overrun by these creatures, while the people in-charge struggle to respond effectively.
All of Us Are Dead’s biggest failing is in its core creature feature – the zombies. Apart from a handful of examples, the zombies are middling at best as a threat, even though they repeatedly come within inches of killing the main cast. The series does something very interesting in the beginning, making it seem like strong negative emotions trigger zombification as a bullied kid starts acting rabid and goes for the bullies, but devolves into a generic virus-gone-haywire story just episodes down the line, which only has a compelling background from the teacher’s circumstances as a father to talk home about. It also doesn’t help that the show is stretched to a massive 12, hour-long episodes, bringing the pace to a screeching halt at times.
On the other hand, the series shines as a disaster show. While the students struggle to survive and cope with their losses, the world outside bears the brunt of the zombie invasion, and it is shown in graphic detail from various perspectives – through military response, political manoeuvres and even streamers literally walking into the city and making false videos of zombie attacks in subways and laughing over it.
Of this, the military response and the political manoeuvres are the most compelling parts of the human drama. While the political up-manning appropriates a father’s desperate desire to see his daughter at school, making the politicians appear truly opportunistic in a rather dramatic interrogation scene, the military response is more cold-hearted and brutally efficient in that they don’t hesitate to experiment on the zombies, mercilessly threaten teenagers with death and even isolate people from the affected region – all very logical choices, presented in a very inhuman fashion. It even has a satisfying, logical conclusion, which ties into the teacher’s motivation for creating the virus.
The show also has its moments of good comedy, such as when a student slips and yells expletives when a teacher runs into the room they are holding as a base against the zombies, and moments of good character drama, where some of the friends are forced to cast aside their own to save themselves. Unfortunately, the latter doesn’t seem to amount to much in the grand scheme of things, and is just washed aside with little consequence for those involved.
All in in all, All of Us Are Dead is no Train to Busan, but if you’re looking for something that checks all the above boxes, you’s perhaps enjoy watching it.