“All of Us Are Dead,” the Netflix horror show about a zombie apocalypse that breaks out in the city of Hyosan, made waves when it premiered on January 28. Social media feeds were filled with comments, memes, and theories about it. Less than two months later, the show might already be renewed for season two. But is it really the revolutionary show some say it is? In my opinion, not exactly. But it does set a new bar for the genre, and future horror shows could definitely learn a thing or two from it.
The Characters Are Relatable, and Make Realistic (Though Questionable) Decisions
Episode 1 introduces us to a diverse cast of high schoolers, oblivious to the zombie outbreak that will take place in their school. There’s one of everyone: the class president who is book-smart but socially inept, the school bully who has no respect for anyone, the wealthy kid who looks down on her less privileged classmates, and the social butterfly who does everything he can to protect his friends. As the show progresses, we find out there is a lot more depth to these characters than the stereotypes they represent. However, it isn’t just this that makes them relatable.
Faced with the zombie outbreak, they are obviously confused and don’t really know how to react. It’s not everyday you see your classmates and teachers turn into zombies, after all. The decisions they make aren’t exactly the most logical; they’re driven by emotions, like fear and the impulse to protect the people they care about. In other words, they act in the same way most of us would if we were caught in a zombie apocalypse. Letting a friend who was bit, but didn’t turn, stay with the group isn’t a smart choice. Neither is going after a student who chooses to leave the safe room, and steps into a zombie-plagued hallway. But most people (especially teenagers) don’t make logical decisions when they are in stressful situations—and the show reflects just that.
Zombies Are Already Part of Their Universe
Everyone has seen a zombie movie or TV show at least once in their lives; or is at least familiar with their existence. However, most characters in Hollywood productions see a zombie, and have no idea what it is. Recognizing that the idea of a zombie outbreak seems ridiculous, the cast of “All of Us Are Dead” still acknowledge people around them are turning into zombies. Main character Cheong-san even makes a clever reference to “Train to Busan,” one of South Korea’s greatest contributions to the zombie apocalypse genre.
By bringing up other works that include zombies, the show’s link to our own universe grows stronger. This adds another sense of realism to the show, making it scarier to watch. Since their world is similar to the one we know, it becomes easier to put ourselves in the character’s shoes.
The Show Deals with Other, Darker Subjects
As mentioned above, one thing the characters don’t lack is depth. This also applies to the universe, and the show’s overall storyline. At first glance, this might seem like your average zombie show; but it only takes a couple minutes to become captivated by the complex, yet fascinating world the showrunners created. The show deals with subjects a lot heavier than those usually discussed in works of horror, including classism, bullying, and teen pregnancy. Rather than distracting the viewer, these bring an additional horror factor. They showcase terrifying experiences we could—and some people certainly do—encounter in real life. Losing your best friend because they’ve turned into a zombie isn’t something that worries most of us; but I’m sure many can relate to considering suicide because they can’t take the bullying from their classmates any longer. This is both heartbreaking and terrifying to see.
The show does use comedy to lighten the mood—and it works! None of the comedic relief moments feel forced. The characters in charge of this, mainly Dae-su, but also minor characters like influencer Orangibberish, fit this role perfectly. They make viewers laugh with their witty remarks at the right times, and provide a breather from all the tragedy otherwise taking place. The series might, in fact, tackle a bit too many topics. One of the main sources of criticism was its running time, which some consider unnecessarily long. Maybe future seasons can focus on developing less plot lines more in depth. Nonetheless, these risks do pay off, making the show a refreshing and creative addition to the horror genre.
Check out the trailer for “All of Us Are Dead” below, and stream season one on Netflix right now!