Review by Hunter Miele
It’s rare to encounter a lover of horror films that doesn’t appreciate a campy zombie flick that’s chock-full of gore and classic apocalyptic imagery. The end-of-the-world scenario creates a unique type of fear and suspense, and when you combine that with grotesque beasts that used to be just like us, you have a perfect recipe for terror. “Alive” sets the stage for a classic zombie apocalypse, but the story tends to distract from the most important aspect of a quintessential zombie film: the zombies.
“Alive” opens with a foreshadowing scene in which a doctor gives the distressing news to a young woman that she likely won’t be able to conceive. He follows the news with an ominous message: “Maybe, in these times, that’s for the best.” She leaves the office and the camera focuses on the television in the lobby, where the news broadcast is reassuring the public that the infection is slowing and everything is under control. The broadcast is cut with scenes showing a city in ruin and the police holding back hoards of zombies, to no avail. Everything is most certainly not under control. The opening of “Alive” is dramatic and action-packed, but this early suspense doesn’t play out through much of the remainder of the film.
We’re then introduced to teenage Helen and her little brother Barney. We see that Barney has been bitten, but he has yet to show signs of a transformation from an adorable little boy into a blood-thirsty killer. Barney’s situation adds a much needed dose of tension to “Alive”, and it’s one of the few aspects of the plot that keeps us on edge. Helen’s boyfriend Kevin is then introduced and he informs them of a plan to reach The Island. On The Island, the outbreak has supposedly been contained and a community thrives there in peace and safety. Helen, Barney and Kevin begin their journey, and along the way they meet Dan. Dan has barricaded himself in a quiet house, equipped with a rifle, and he allows the children to take refuge with him. He assures them that he’ll help them on their dangerous quest, but he’s harboring a secret that can put all of their lives in jeopardy.
As they make their way towards The Island, the group rarely encounters the biggest threat to their safety: the hoards of vicious zombies that are supposedly looming around every corner. This is a surprising letdown, as the story so far has remained bleak and slow and with very little violence. Eventually the group encounters a religious cult, led by a domineering, menacing priest. This appears to be the saving grace for an otherwise bland story, but this turn of events only convolutes the plot, and we’re still left feeling unsatisfied at the lack of gore, suspense and- most importantly- zombies.
“Alive” falls short of delivering what the opening scenes promised: a tension-driven film brimming with monsters and carnage. Its attempts to substitute the lack of brutality with a thorough story and well-developed characters is often lacking. The plot is choppy (as well as the scene transitions) and can be difficult to follow, which is quite the let down for any film, especially one of this particular genre. The film ends with a few less-than-shocking twists, and we see the majority of the action (and zombies) in the final scenes. All told, “Alive”’s action and suspense is largely contained in its opening and closing scenes, with an unfilling plot and lack of gore and terror sandwiched in the middle.
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