All of Us Are Dead review: Is the zombie show on Netflix any good?

All of Us Are Dead. Courtesy of Netflix.
All of Us Are Dead. Courtesy of Netflix. /

Since its Netflix release on Jan. 28, the South Korean zombie drama All of Us Are Dead has remained in the streaming platform’s Top 10 list in both the UK and the US, rising to the number one spot in both.

Haven’t watched and wondering if the 12-episode zombie apocalypse is worth watching? Here’s a spoiler-free review and more details about the series to help you decide!

What is All of Us Are Dead about?

Following in the wake of the global smash hit K-drama Squid Game, and the record-breaking 2016 zombie thriller movie Train to BusanAll of Us Are Dead is a large-scale dystopian story set in the high school of Hyosan, South Korea and based on the webtoon by Joo Dong-geun. When a rot-inducing, frenzy-causing virus begins to spread throughout the school and the surrounding area after a science experiment goes wrong, a group of students are left isolated and forced to do what it takes to protect themselves and their friends from the flesh-eating monsters breaking down their classroom doors. Friendships and morals are tested, limbs are lost, and zombies are pummelled, all in the refreshing context of a school through the eyes of the teenagers involved.

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All of Us Are Dead. Courtesy of Netflix. /

All of Us Are Dead cast

The cast of All of Us Are Dead is, surprisingly, somewhat unknown. Whilst boasting the larger name of Kim Byung-chul (Sky Castle & Descendants of the Sun) as science teacher Lee Byeong-chan, the majority of the main cast is portrayed by young actors relatively under the radar. Although fans of Squid Game may recognise Lee Yoo-mi as Lee Na-yeon after her memorable performance as Ji-yeong (the newfound friend of Sae-byeok during the competition), the rest of the cast is comprised of fairly new faces. Director Lee Jae-gyu explained his reasoning for this in an interview with EDaily:

"“I think that if actors who can act well, although they are still unfamiliar to the public, participate in this work, it will help [the audience] to be more immersed,”"

This is certainly successful in the K-drama, as each of the students’ characters feels fleshed out (pardon the pun) and relatable, as opposed to feeling like actors simply portraying assigned roles. This can often be the case (particularly in Western media) when celebrities become such big names that it is hard to look past their star status.

Some of the most stellar performances come from Cho Yi-hyun as Choi Nam-ra, the initially reserved and cold class president who really comes into her own past the halfway mark of the show, and Yoo In-soo as Yoon Gwi-nam, the school bully who truly embodies the idea of ‘love to hate them’ characters. The rest of the outstanding All of Us Are Dead student cast also includes up-and-coming actor Park Solomon (Sweet Revenge), Park Ji-hu (House of Hummingbird) and Yoon Chan-young.

How long is All of Us Are Dead?

The zombie thrill ride is definitely not the easiest binge-watch and is best consumed in smaller doses. Initially, All of Us are Dead is fast in its pace and showcases some astounding camerawork and choreography which really hold your attention; pay particular attention to the extensive one-take shots during the canteen scenes of Episodes One and Two, part of which is shown below. However, 12 episodes of around one hour runtime each can easily mean that the viewer becomes desensitised to all the brutality and gruesome moments, so are enjoyed more when spread over a longer period as opposed to a one-sitting watch.

The show, unfortunately, dulls slightly in the very middle of the season, with little action happening and too much jumping from the high school setting to the outside world, bogged down by subplots and vague military/scientific content. But once the action returns to Hyosan High School and the eclectic mix of students with their individual issues is when the show gets back on the road, inducing gasps, screams, tears, and laughter.

Is All of Us Are Dead worth watching?

Overall, All of Us Are Dead is absolutely worth watching. Whether you are a horror fan or not, the K-drama balances gore and emotion in a great way and you cannot help but admire the young acting cast and appreciate the incredible work of the zombies’ makeup artists and SFX team.

Whilst it is easy to wish for a stronger focus on the students in their high school battleground and less on the external responses to the virus, the coronavirus parallels allow these extra plotlines to make sense in a story ultimately about a raging pandemic on an extreme level. Somehow covering everything from mental health, politics, teenage pregnancy, bullying, military action, class divides, and the strength of love and friendship within a zombie thriller, All of Us Are Dead is simply a great piece of television. It acts as yet another jewel in South Korea’s television drama crown, proving just why the international media industry continues to grow.

Watch all 12 episodes of All of Us Are Dead on Netflix.

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