Is Korean Film Production Taking Over the Production of Zombie-Related Movies ?
Hollywood and western culture have a long history with supernatural movies, specifically zombies, as evidenced by the success of popular zombie films and dramas such as The Walking Dead, Z Nation, World War Z, and Resident Evil. However, in recent years, the popularity of Hollywood zombie films and series have been declining, with viewers citing the lack of development in terms of characters and story lines.
At the same time, the Korean film industry is taking over the world with fans addicted to the beautiful cast, the unique soundtracks, the impressive fashion, the cultural appeal, and the incredible storylines that resonate with viewers. Thus, the creativity of Korean film producers breathes new life into zombie stories making them a new sensation in the Hallyu Korean wave.
Zombies are not a part of traditional Korean folklore, making the success of these films remarkable. Zombies just began appearing in Korean popular culture recently because of the influences of western zombie films. Regardless, the international success of the 2016 film Train to Busan led to the establishment of the genre in the Korean film industry.
As a result, the multi-talented and intelligent filmmakers took up the challenge and placed their spin on the story of the living dead, and just like with other Korean popular cultures, the results were zombie productions taking over. Netflix and other popular streaming companies are ramping up their investments in producing original television series and movies featuring K-zombies. It begs the question, how is Korean film production taking over the production of zombie-related movies?
The most obvious answer to this question is that, just like all other genres, the k-zombie production takes a new approach to the undead, which audiences crave. Although the fight for survival, supernatural viral infections, and the consumption of human brains have evolved, the productions of zombie films are still not a match for the eclectic plot lines, educational values of surviving an apocalypse, and the production values of Korean dramas.
K-zombies takes a new spin on the familiar zombie characters with bone-breaking motions and bloody makeup progress; the characters mesmerize audiences with their unique actions and fast movements. In addition, Koreans have introduced different types of zombies, including medieval zombies like those in historical series and films like Rampant (2018), with vampire-like abilities ravaging the Joseon streets at night and hiding from the sun during the day.
The Train to Busan brings together unpopular characters in zombie movies, including a divorced workaholic father traveling with his daughter, a pregnant woman and her overly aggressive husband, two high scholars, an older woman, and a homeless man. The diverse class from different social classes must work together to survive against fast-moving zombies who cannot see in the dark.
The unlikely group is trapped in a fast-moving train, cut off from the possibility of exits and government assistance. The plot line removes the overly familiar elements in zombie movies or series, such as no guns, elite soldiers, and a high wall to keep the zombies out.
In addition, Korean film production has a way of tapping into relatable feelings and human emotions, and K-zombies feed on the anxieties and fears of audiences worldwide. The 2022 series, All of Us Are Dead was released when society was at the edge of collapse due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, watching a group of teenagers trapped and fighting for survival, each character that turns into a zombie resonates with the audience’s experiences, with the experiences hitting home and making the fear perceptible.
Similarly, the 2020 thriller Alive feeds on the absolute dread of quarantine periods, the paranoia of not being able to discern whom the virus might infect, and the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic.
Furthermore, the K-zombie series and movies are unapologetic about their criticism of societal injustices. K-zombie movies and series deal with themes relevant to today’s global world, providing commentaries on issues such as class struggles, urbanization and isolation, class struggles, and government corruption.
These films provide realistic reflections on the present fears of keeping up with a competitive and fast-paced society, hunger crisis, privileges of the wealthy, challenges of financial instabilities, and poor crisis management. For instance, Train to Busan takes a stand against individualism and the consequences of prioritizing corporate greed over the safety of the majority, in addition to the thrilling action scenes.
Another example is the 2019 K-zombie thriller series Kingdom, which looks into the privilege of the upper-class wealthy and the effects of the mismanagement of a crisis by the government. Peninsula (2020) narrates that humans are bound to become monstrous in the attempt to flee from life monsters in a world of limited resources, constant challenges, competition, misfortunes, and setbacks. It asks, is it possible for people to create hope in a hopeless and desolate world? The films offer an opportunity to reflect on self and how we can overcome life challenges by losing our humanity.
Another reason for K-zombies’ popularity is the excellent visuals due to the high value placed on film productions. Like all other genres, K-zombie thrillers draw the viewers in by relying heavily on melodramas. The films bring emotions to zombie stories that are non-existent in western films.
The productions capitalize on exposing the characters’ vulnerabilities, despair, and heartache as families are torn apart as protagonists fight against fast-moving zombies adding to the thrill and mystery. K-zombie films draw inspiration from the real world and create highly entertaining films that bring about hope amidst horrors. Given the current monster success of Korean Zombie stories, it is evident that K-zombies will continue to take over the production of Zombie related movies and television series.
What are your thoughts on zombie movies and why we adore them? What are your favourite zombie movies? Do let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!