By Mulenga Mumba
Picture this: you’re in High School. It's lunchtime on a normal school day. You’ve just got your lunch and sat down with your friends in the cafeteria. The bullies are messing with someone to the right, the sporty kids on the left are talking about what they think will be the outcome of today’s archery trials, the girls next to you are talking about who they have a crush on while fawning over the school’s resident heartthrob. You’re surrounded by the hustle and bustle that is a normal school day. What’s that?... A girl escaped from being locked up by the science teacher? Umm…did someone call the poli...Why are people running?... Why are some of them covered in blood?... What’s going o..? ZOMBIES???
Based on a webtoon called Now at Our School by Joo Dong-geun, All Of Us Are Dead follows a group of students, as they try to survive a science experiment gone awry. Will they make it or is it too late for them? Find out in this high school zombie flick.
(Image Credit: Netflix - https://www.wikibiodata.com/all-of-us-are-dead-cast/)
One of the main protagonists who happens to be a neighbour and childhood friend of Nam On-jo. Has somewhat of a chilled, laid-back personality but don’t be fooled… he won’t hesitate to protect those he loves.
Another one of our main protagonists. A student of class 2-5 and is a neighbour and childhood friend of Lee Cheong-san.
Reformed delinquent of class 2-5. Instead of using his powers for evil, is now using them for good. Nicknamed ‘Bare-su’ by his fellow students. (You gotta watch the show to find out why.)
Is class president of class 2 - 5 due to a generous donation to the school by her mum. Is very studious and is always in the top spot when it comes to academics. She’s a bit of a lone-wolf type.
The school’s resident science teacher, who may or may not have “unintentionally” created a self-replicating virus that started all this mess in the first place. You can argue that his heart’s in the right place but what a way to say school’s out.
Captain of the Hyosan Fire Station rescue team who will stop at nothing to ensure the safety of those he is tasked to protect. Is also On-ju’s dad and will walk through hell and back for his daughter. Definitely someone you would like on your side.
The plucky detective of Hyosan police station. Having the righteousness level to rival that of Superman, he very much subscribes to the “No Man (or child) Left Behind” way of thinking (Image Credit: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt14169960/mediaviewer/rm49472513?ref_=ext_shr_lnk )
A student of class 2-1, he is one of the school’s resident delinquents. Through some heavy plot armour, he eventually becomes our main antagonist.
A student of class 2-5, she’s rich, spoiled and entitled (the holy trinity of mean girl personality traits). It can be argued that her arrogance is there to cover some deep underlying family issues but we won’t get into that.
Plot x Storyline:
WARNING!!! The story starts off quite violent with some of the very first scenes we see being that of a student being bullied and essentially accidentally unaliving themselves. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. VIEWER DISCRETION IS VERY MUCH ADVISED!
Now that we’ve addressed that, let’s continue.
The show starts off by introducing the science teacher’s son Lee Jin-su, who has been heavily bullied by delinquents from his previous school, Hyosan High School. He transferred schools because of said bullying but the bullies found him outside of his new school and continued to bully him. (Jobless people).
Due to this bullying, he eventually jumps off a rooftop and is hospitalised.
While visiting him at the hospital, his father, Lee Byeong-chan, realises that his son has developed zombie-like symptoms and decides to take it into his own hands. (The holy spirit shall set you free and all that). Of course, this doesn’t work, so in true scientist fashion, Lee Byeong-chan decides to study this virus to see if he can slow it down and eventually cure it.
Fast forward a bit and we now have a hamster infected with the virus being kept in Hyosan High school’s “science lab” (It’s not really a lab, it’s just the science classroom’s storage room). Of course, keeping such a thing in the school’s “science lab” is a sure-fire way to getting it discovered. (I mean it’s a high school. Students and their curiosity, right?).
Well, lo and behold, a student gets bitten by the hamster and gets infected. Lee Byeong-chan discovers the student and locks her in the same storage room to prevent the spread of the virus (and for further study of course, he is a scientist after all).
She, of course, escapes and ends up being found and is sent to the hospital. Her parting gift? Biting the school nurse (now we all know this is where all hell starts to break loose). In true zombie flick fashion, the nurse changes into a zombie due to the bite and proceeds to attack some students.
These students then turn and attack more students. Those students then turn and attack more students and then THOSE students turn and start attacking more students and then THOSE students turn and… you get the picture.
This is where things start to pick up pace, with all the biting, turning, dying, running to avoid dying, etc.
While all this is going on at Hyosan High School, our “lovely” scientist is being interrogated at Hyosan Police station by (hello new character) detective Song Jae-ik. And in true police fashion, our detective is asking all the wrong questions and making all the wrong moves (I get it, kidnapping is a serious crime, but like he’s trying to tell you about the zombies). If you’ve watched as many crime shows as I have, you’d know just how frustrating the police in this situation can be. We get to see all the typical moves, threatening, coercion, etc. Despite all this, the scientist keeps calm and insists that he be listened to (as he should).
Meanwhile, at the hospital, the girl that got bit by the zombie hamster is riling up a storm. We’ve got nurses biting patients, doctors biting the paramedics, it’s a whole fiasco over there. While all this is happening, the police station starts to see its own zombie outbreak emerge. In the midst of all the biting and trying not to get bit, the scientist tells the detective that the research on his laptop (which is back at the high school), could be the only way to come up with a solution to this growing zombie epidemic. The station is over-run by now, so after saving a junior police officer (who becomes his plucky new sidekick), the detective and his new sidekick head to Hyosan High School to retrieve the laptop and take it to the “higher authorities” (the ARMY… oh yeah, they now also know about the zombie epidemic and are at the frontlines trying to stop the spread of the virus).
Back at Hyosan High School, the survivors from class 2-5 are holed up in the school broadcasting room while taking shelter from the zombies.
After fighting a zombie that was trying to come through the back window, an argument ensues about whether or not one of the survivors has been bitten (he got scratched by the zombie during the kerfuffle). This ultimately results in his death because the rich girl, Na-yeon, may or may not have managed to turn the other student by introducing infected blood to his open scratch. This ultimately results in Na-yeon being exiled from the group and the teacher (who they had met up with earlier) going after her to protect her.
Triggered by this, Cheong-san and Bare-su decide to go to the teachers’ room (mission impossible style) to get some phones so they can try to call the emergency services (all their phones were confiscated by the teacher earlier that morning). This is when we get introduced to super zombie number 1, who is also in the teachers’ room looking for their phones (for a different reason). Note: because she is now a super zombie, the zombies literally ignore her existence and don’t attack her.
(Image Credit: All Of Us are Dead, Netflix, episode 4 )
While trying to escape her and all the zombies around her, Cheong-san and Bare-su get separated and Bare-su returns to the broadcast room alone. The group decides to venture out and go save Cheong-san (and look for more food and water) after they discover him holed up in the music room (they used a phone attached to a makeshift drone to find him).
Meanwhile, Cheong-san has managed to make it out of the teachers’ room and into the principal's office. However, this is where he finds super zombie number 2, Gwi-nam the bully (although he’s not a super zombie yet). As Cheong-san enters the office, he witnesses (and films) Gwi-nam (*insert eye-roll here*) unaliving the principal and happens to film it (as evidence) with the phone he got from the teachers’ office. This makes him top of Gwi-nam’s kill list and an epic chase, culminating in an epic library showdown, ensues.
(Image Credit: All Of Us are Dead, Netflix, episode 5 )
The result of this showdown as you may have guessed favours Cheong-san. He manages to escape from Gwi-nam while Gwi-nam ends up as zombie high schooler lunch (sadly he doesn’t stay dead for long). Cheong-san manages to hide in an empty (or what we thought as empty) music room.
The broadcast crew manage to find Cheong-san in the music room and decide to make camp there temporarily (with all those zombies out there, I don’t blame them). It’s a far cry from peaceful but right now even a music room that has a trapped zombie (trapped under a piano) can feel like a safepoint.
Unfortunately for class 2-5 (or what's left of them rather) this is where things start to take a turn for the worse. What happened? You’ll just have to watch the rest of the show to find out. Seriously, go watch it.
I love a good zombie flick and this show was one of the good ones. It may not be on the level of Kingdom in terms of story execution and complexity but it’s definitely up there.
In terms of what was well executed, I can say there were a few points that I personally enjoyed.
1. The Zombies
The Zombies in my opinion were the best thing in the whole show. Considering the fact that most of the zombie actors on the show have done zombie projects like Kingdom, Train to Busan, etc., it comes as no surprise that the zombies on All Of Us are Dead are really well executed.
Compared to other zombie movies/shows, this show did not have a large amount of jumpscares. There were scattered here and there but rather than focus on the fear aspect with jumpscares, I believe this drama focuses more on making the viewer empathise with the struggle the characters are going through. We even get several scenes of the survivors making a makeshift toilet and figuring out sanitation (watching this drama made me realise just how important that is in an apocalypse). I would definitely recommend this drama to someone who is a casual zombie movie watcher or is just looking for a light horror flick without all the jumpscares of traditional horror movies.
3. The Gore
Linking onto reason 2 above, I think the level of gore on this show was quite toned down compared to other zombie shows/movies. Yes, we get to see people getting bitten and torn apart but it’s definitely not as much as there could have been. It seems like rather than focusing on the gore aspect (who’s dying and how they are dying), All Of Us are Dead focuses more on the survivors. Showing us not only how they are surviving but why it is they are fighting to stay alive for. Be it love, family, or intense disdain for other humans (I'm looking at you Gwi-nam and Min Eun-ji also known as Super Zombie number 1), the survivors’ strong will to not die is what has been highlighted. This is another reason why I would recommend this drama to newbie zombie movie watchers.
That’s all well and good but there are still some things I wish were done better.
1. Use of typical K-Drama tropes
I know as K-Drama watchers, we all love a good K-Drama cliche every now and then. You know, the ol’ bumping into someone and dropping your papers, or tripping and falling into the “love interest,” etc. However, this being a Zombie based show (you know, fighting for our lives and whatnot), the lack of urgency given to most of the characters was astounding. We had the “the character falls in the middle of panic and freezes” cliche. We had the “screaming at the zombie while it approaches hoping to scare it away” cliche. We also had the “ignoring the only person with information about this virus until it’s too late” cliche. I know this is typical of a zombie movie but this over-use of cliches made the drama a little too predictable.
2. The pacing
For the first couple of episodes, the story progression was very slow, making it a bit hard to watch (if you’re not someone with hyperfocus, it would be very easy to lose interest after watching 2 episodes). However, as soon as the zombie virus starts to spread, the story's progression suddenly becomes really fast. We end up losing a lot of character development and end up with a lot of 2D characters. This means that when said character dies, it’s very hard to feel emotionally attached to that character. In fact, the only person I felt had a solid backstory was the scientist (you really get to know and understand the driving force behind his actions). I feel like we don’t get that much effort into the remaining characters.
3. Character development
See 2 above.
4. The plot armour
This is a personal issue of mine but there’s a whole lot of surviving being done in this drama just because it makes for a typical K-Drama plot (Yes, I’m talking about Gwi-nam). Tell me why the one person I really wanted dead is the person that gets Zombie super powers. Also, ZOMBIE SUPER POWERS?... REALLY?... like I know we need a level of predictability but of all the things you could use, you had to go with Zombie Super Powers. Not even immunity against the bite, we went straight to superhuman half zombies. I’ll tell you what though, I’m excited for season 2 because I am invested in seeing the downfall of Gwi-nam (I need to see it with my two eyes for me to have peace).
Rating x Rewatch Score:
In terms of ratings, I’ll give this drama a shaky 3.5. I want to give it a 4, but there were too many things that had me rolling my eyes. I’m really hoping we get more character development in season 2 for at least the main characters (as well as a gruesomely satisfying Gwi-nam annihilation).
In terms of rewatch factor (as in would I watch it again?) I give this drama a Super Zombie 5 out of 5. I know, I know. Considering what I just said about this drama, you wouldn’t expect me to want to re-watch it but… ZOMBIES. The zombies were executed so well that I’ll probably re-watch it a few more times before season 2 airs (don’t ask me how many times I’ve watched Kingdom).
Overall, for all the flaws that the drama has (character development, use of cliches, that dang plot armour, etc.), once it gets going, it’s quite fun to watch. Of course, I almost cried a few times here and there (we won’t get into that), but the general thrill of the drama makes it a must-watch for anyone who enjoys that sort of thing. Also, the goosebumps you’ll be feeling will definitely have you feeling cool after this scorching 5-day British summer.