Based on the late 2000s webtoon “Now At Our School” by Joo Dong-geun, “All Of Us Are Dead” is South Korea’s next major zombie spectacle after the hit film “Train to Busan.” This series is centered around a friend group, bullies, victims, and archers— Cheongsan (Yoon Chanyoung), Onjo (Park Jihoo), Suhyeok (Park Solomon), Namra (Jo Yihyun), Gyeongsu (Ham Sung Min), Daesu (Lim Jaehyuk), Isak (Kim Jooah), Wujin (Son Sangyeon), Myunghwan (Oh Heejoon), Gwinam (Yoo Insoo), Nayeon (Lee Yoomi), Hari (Ha Seungri), Eunji (Oh Hyesoo), Hyoryeong (Kim Boyun), Jimin (Kim Jinyoung), Minjae (Jin Hoeun), Cheolsoo (Ahn Jiho), and Heesu (Lee Chaeeun)— as they navigate a zombie apocalypse.
Set in Hyosan, a high school science teacher, Lee Byeongchan (Kim Byungchul) has crafted a virus that turns humans into zombies. When student Hyeonjoo (Jung Yiseo) gets exposed to this virus, she eventually sets off a zombie epidemic that plagues Hyosan High School and beyond.
And while it is a fairly standard coming-of-age apocalyptic horror show, “All Of Us Are Dead” has managed to capture the audience and make it within the top three currently trending on Netflix worldwide due to some of its unique charms.
Some Familiar Faces & A Homage to “Train to Busan”
Even if zombies and horror aren’t your cups of tea (because truth be told it isn’t mine), for k-drama fans seeing some stars such as Park Solomon return to the acting scene for the first time since 2019 was enough to get them watching. Others have starred in recently popular k-dramas such as Lee Yoomi of “Squid Game” and Son Sangyeon of “Racket Boys.” Moreover, a good chunk of the cast have worked together before in shows like “Sweet Revenge/Revenge Note,” “Hospital Playlist,” etc., so the chemistry of the cast was quite high and definitely showed in their friend group dynamic despite the complexity of many of their characters. Plus, the show does a great job of casually referencing “Train to Busan,” which was a global sensation that is set to have a US remake in 2023.
Anti-Bullying, Betrayals, Character Development, & Recurring Theme of Life
The show does an exemplary job of portraying the extremes and harmful effects of bullying particularly in South Korea through characters Gwinam, Eunji, Suhyeok, Cheolsoo, Jinsu, and Byeongchan. From teacher Byeongchan’s maniacal response to his son Jinsu being bullied to the difference between Cheolsoo and Eunji after being bullied by Gwinam to Suhyeok who had stopped partaking in such a toxic lifestyle, each character shows how deeply troubled Korean society is by bullying. Though I will warn and say that while this show pushes an anti-bullying narrative, the more casually placed body shaming of Daesu was uncalled for and contradicted one of the main messages of the show.
On another note, there is betrayal and backstabbing throughout the show that angered viewers globally on Twitter and various chat forums. Those watching got to see how class differences, stressful situations, and fear can bring out the worst or the best in people. And while some storylines weren’t fleshed out enough due to differences in acting skill across the cast, the dynamics of other characters brought the story to life, even though a lot of those around them were… you know… dead. Thus, the story constantly reminds us to value our lives and those around us because you never know what’s bound to happen when a science teacher finds out his child is being bullied.
What’s Yet to Come
Like I said earlier, I’m not particularly fond of zombie, apocalyptic horror shows. Nonetheless, I can’t deny the appeal this cast brings to the public nor the quality of the actors and cinematography. This said, there are still some loose ends that the fans wanted to see addressed. Will the power dynamic between the bully and his victims ever be changed? How will the survivors recover now that they are in a post-apocalyptic setting? What will happen with those who can pass as asymptomatic? And most saliently to those of you reading this right now, will “All of Us Are Dead” get a season two, or will these questions remain unanswered?