All Of Us Are Dead is a Korean-language Netflix Original Series written by Chun Sung-il and directed by Lee Jae-kyoo & Kim Nam-Soo. It’s based on the webtoon Now at Our School by Joo Dong-geun. Lee Cheong-san (Yoo Chan-young) and his fellow high school students have their lives upturned when a student presumed to be missing starts acting like a feral animal, contorting herself in unnatural positions and attempting to bite people who come near her. This leads to a zombie outbreak, and as the undead swarm the school, Cheong-san and other students — including his best friend Nam On-jo (Park ji-hoo) and stoic class president Choi Nam-ra (Yi Hyun-Cho) — struggle to survive, as terror and paranoia rise and the outside world falls prey to the undead.
The zombie genre has had its ups and downs over the years. Recently it’s started to make a comeback with films like Blood Quantum and the resurgence of the Resident Evil franchise; mainly because creators have remembered that the genre is used to dig into some dark truths about society. All Of Us Are Dead doesn’t shy away from this, as the students battle their own prejudices and beliefs about each other. A key example comes early in the first three episodes, when popular student Na-yeon (Lee You-mi) shoves and insults another student for being a “welfy”-in other words, he’s on welfare. Another source of tension comes between delinquent Mi-jin (Lee Eun-saem) and archery champ Ha-ri (Ha Seung-ri) over their station in life; Mi-jin thinks her future lies in acing her senior exams and that Ha-ri has it easy because of her athletic skills, but as time goes on Mi-jin learns that isn’t exactly the case.
The high school setting also provides a great place for a horror story. All Of Us Are Dead isn’t the first horror series to explore the concept of “high school literally being hell”- fellow Korean horror series Hellbound beat it to the punch. But it does prove that a high school wouldn’t be the ideal place to hide in a zombie outbreak. The zombies spread with frightening speed, overwhelming rooms and confining characters to various rooms; one scene in a library becomes a harrowing race against time as Cheong-san jumps from bookshelf to bookshelf to escape the zombie horde. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, school bully Gwi-nam (Yoo In-soo) shows he’ll go to unspeakable lengths to survive, including ruthlessly sacrificing others to the zombies.
Speaking of the zombies, they’re the most terrifying I’ve seen in a long time. Instead of the usual rotting, shambling corpses, these zombies possess bloodshot eyes and are able to contort themselves into impossible positions. They also run at frightening scenes; viewers will lose track of every time the students have to jump and duck and dodge hordes of the undead. It also keeps the horror elements intact; my heart kept leaping in my chest when a student was grabbed by a zombie or a zombie popped snarling into the screen. Both Jae-keoo and Nam-Soo have clearly studied the various entires in the zombie genre and pay homage to them; Train To Busan even gets a shoutout both at the beginning of the story and in a scene where the students rush the zombies using doors as makeshift riot shields.
The story grows to encompass the outbreak taking place in other locations, including a government building and even a YouTube sensation who foolishly tries to rack up views by going into the thick of the invasion. While there are some interesting twists — the origin of the zombies lies in a scientist who wanted to stop his son from being bullied, which brings to mind the old adage about how the road to hell is paved with good intentions — none of these storylines grab me as much as the scenes taking place in the high school.
All Of Us Are Dead is the best zombie story I’ve seen in years; it has a cast of compelling characters, a truly frightening set of zombies, and a setting that presents challenge after challenge for its protagonists. Between this and Army of the Dead, Netflix is breathing new life into the zombie genre—if you’ll pardon the pun.
All Of Us Are Dead is currently streaming on Netflix.
All of Us Are Dead
- Rating - 9/109/10
All Of Us Are Dead is the best zombie story I’ve seen in years; it has a cast of compelling characters, a truly frightening set of zombies, and a setting that presents challenge after challenge for its protagonists. Between this and Army of the Dead, Netflix is breathing new life into the zombie genre — if you’ll pardon the pun.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.