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[K-Drama Review] ‘All of Us Are Dead’: Reasons Why the World’s No. 1 K-Zombie Drama Is Getting Mixed Reviews

Edited by Young Jun Yang
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

All of Us Are Dead review
Credit: Netflix

From Train to Busan to Kingdom, the “K-Zombie genre” has evolved over the years and has successfully solidified a global fandom (of course, there have been several trials and errors). Therefore, expectations and interest in All of Us Are Dead were already at their peak. And as if to live up to them, the drama achieved the highest points among K-dramas released on Netflix and won the title of “world No. 1.” However, apart from the great record, the show has been receiving very mixed reviews. This article looks into the likes and dislikes of the drama.

October 20th, 2021. Hyosan High School started just like any other day. And that was before a student infected with the Jonas virus, the so-called “zombie virus,” showed up. The virus, which quickly traveled behind the school walls, began to wreak havoc on the entire city, and the very few survivors on the campus had to join forces to survive in the hell that broke out before their eyes. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for these students to realize the fact that they have to deal with not only the zombies but also the even more terrifying “humans.”

The performances of Korean zombies continue in the show. From the fast movements and brutal aggression to the unique movements of cracking joints – it’s the same appearances of the “K-zombies” that have thrilled fans at home and aboard over the past few years, starting with Train to Busan. As was the case with all the scenes with a flock of zombies, especially the zombie attack in the one-take cafeteria scene in episode 2 is so tense and gruesome that you’ll find yourself clenching your fists tight. Not only the so-called “zombie actors/choreographers” but also the lead actors who later turn into zombies show impressive performances. Even so, if I have to pick one weakness, it’ll be the inconsistent setting of the zombies.

All of Us Are Dead review
Credit: Netflix

What stands out in All of Us Are Dead is the main character’s age. In most apocalyptic films, adolescents/minors have often been portrayed as those needing protection and often passive. However, the teenagers in this show are different. Rather than waiting for the rescue, they make their own judgments and take action to survive. Their actions and the conflicts that result from their recklessness and immaturity provide a different kind of fun from “adults’ situations.” It’s like watching a teenagers’ growth drama set in a zombie apocalypse.

Still, opinions are varied as to how these teenagers are used. It’s definitely fun to watch the growth of the characters, but sometimes the choices they make are so frustrating that it seems that they seem more like “children” than teenagers. The abundant use of the “youth filter” reminiscent of school or youth romance dramas, even in scenes where characters fight for their lives, also adds to this thought. In a way, it’s a bold yet fresh attempt. Some might view it as a device that could lighten up the hopeless mood, while some could see it as a hindrance that stops them from getting absorbed into the situation.

All of Us Are Dead looks at the society we live in with a critical eye. This is in a similar context to K-dramas recently released on Netflix, such as D.P., Squid Game, and Hellbound. It aims to flag up the social problems that are prevalent today, such as school violence, juvenile crimes, sexual violence, hate and discrimination, and neglect by adults. In particular, seeing the main characters filming what could be the last moments of their lives on camera without getting rescued by the adults remind us of the tragedy of the past that we must never forget.

However, it’s questionable whether these materials were dealt with in depth. It kind of feels like there’s a lot it wanted to say but failed to do so. The drama just lists out the problems and only superficially deals with these issues, making them feel like unnecessary additions to the story. As a result, some scenes like school bullying or sexual violence gave the impression that they are merely consumed as provocative reasons rather than for the purpose of arousing awareness, leaving a regret. 

I wouldn’t be exaggerating anything when I say All of Us Are Dead has once again proven the charm of K-content to viewers around the world. Despite the mixed reviews, the fact that it has kept its top spot on Netflix’s popularity rankings is proof of that. Considering the open ending that left a deep afterglow and its popularity, it’s highly likely that the show will get a green light for season two. So I hope that the drama’s strengths will be further spotlighted and the regrets get improvements. Let’s be honest. We all want to see the performances of “half-zombie” Nam Ra, right?

 

Verdict: A discordant yet harmonious combination of school and zombie that don’t seem to go along well (6/10)

 

Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.

Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.

What do you think?