English Title: All of Us Are Dead
Korean Title: 지금 우리 학교는 [lit. Now our school + topic ptcl.]
Director(s): Lee Jae-gyoo
Screenwriter(s): Chun Sung-il
Studio: JTBC Studios Released: 2022
Runtime: 12 episodes, 53m – 1h 11m.
Starring: Park Ji-hoo, Yoon Chan-young, Jo Yi-hyun, Lomon, Yoo In-soo, Jeon Bae-soo, Lim Jae-hyeok, Kim Bo-yun, Son Sang-yeon, Ahn Seung-gyun, Kim Jin-young, Lee Yoo-mi, Kim Joo-ah, Kim Byung-chul
My Verdict: A decent drama with solid performances from a young cast, but it is another zombie survival-horror caused by a virus that can use a little improvement in pacing.
● I need to first qualify this review with a personal comment: I simply don’t find the zombie genre and the usual premise fascinating in the first place and now less so given its saturation of the market. I find this approach to gore and death often has little value. That said, if I do watch a zombie film or series, I am open to the possibility of decent storytelling regardless of the sub-genre and approach.
● Based on the webtoon of the same name by Joo Dong-geun, the story begins when there is a zombie outbreak at a high school during lunchtime. This is caused by a virus created by science teacher Lee Byung-chan (Kim Byung-chul). His initial goal was to make his son be more physically able to deal with bullies but instead created a virus that turns the infected into rampaging flesh-eaters that can run. One student gets infected and so on.
● In the modern “scientific” age, the virus premise is just done to death. (No way to avoid that pun.) One either accepts it or not.
● The story follows mostly one group of students led by childhood friends Nam On-jo (Park Ji-hoo) and Lee Chung-san (Yoon Chan-young). On-jo is kindhearted but is academically hopeless. Her father tells her it’s more important to be healthy. Chung-san is mostly a sensible guy, albeit stubborn. Choi Nam-ra (Jo Yi-hyun) is the stereotypical cool chic and the class president who is misunderstood. Lee Soo-hyeok (Lomon) is the “good-looking male lead” who has grown up and no longer hangs out with bullies. The group is large, initially having 12 students so the group dynamic is interesting.
● There is a love rectangle of sorts amongst the abovementioned four main characters. Whilst the narrative does not shy away from addressing their feelings, it thankfully does not dwell on them either. The approach is sensible and balanced.
● To give the viewers some relief, the narrative does follow On-jo’s father Nam So-ju who is a first responder as well as other groups of students. And as they move about and meet others, including the military, it segues to give the viewers a glimpse of the military decisions.
● The pacing is not bad. The initial outbreak is executed very well. The progression is not as slow as what one may expect from a K-drama. That said, it can be tighter. The students, when finding some location within the school which they can consider relatively safe, stay there for some time before attempting to displace. In a way, it is plausible and it does allow for some tension and suspense but, as a series, it can also be tiring to watch. Perhaps that is the point given the plight of the main characters.
● The series addresses, somewhat crudely, the issue of bullying. It is to counter bullying that is the motivation that led to the creation of the virus. Also, when the usual rules of society break down, some of the bullies and the bullied act in destructive ways—and this is not limited to the students. The series does not explore the subject in-depth, nor does it need to, but it does make the point.
● With high school students as viewpoint characters, the series does take a dim view of authority figures. Thankfully, unlike some works, it does not push some libtard anarchist agenda; I don’t get the sense that the show is anti-authority as a matter of principle. Just as there are many flawed “grown-ups” in the story, there are a few reasonable ones. Sadly, given the state of the world, a dim view of authority figures is often accurate even if it is unkind. (As a sidebar, this is not surprising given the corruption and the unnecessary emphasis or bias on authority with its consequent injustices, real or perceived, that are ingrained in Asian cultures.)
● It is refreshing to see a cast of younger actors who are either relatively new or, if they have been around for some time, get a bigger role than before. Generally, they all put on good performances.
● The makeup is well done and the visual effects are not bad. One can tell when green screen and CG are utilized but it is not jarring.
● If one is looking for constant action, then this is not the series to watch. Still, it has enough. It does have tension and suspense as well as romantic and coming-of-age elements. Even though it can be tiring at times and it is just another zombie series, it is generally well-produced with solid performances.
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