Following the tremendous success of Squid Game, Kingdom, Hellbound, and The Silent Sea, South Korea continues to prove why it’s considered a streaming powerhouse across the globe with All of Us Are Dead based on the webtoon of the same name by Joo Dong-Geun. The newest hit zombie K-drama thriller presents a refreshing take on the well-loved genre by putting unassuming high school students into a sea of running corpses and mayhem.
Even though the 12-part Netflix show follows the webtoon’s storyline, some changes were needed to give it a new flair across the small screens, according to director Lee Jae Gyu. Whether you’ve read the webtoon beforehand or you’re purely watching the show out of a K-drama binging habit, it’s still a riveting series.
Are you still reading? Okay, good. A spoiler alert is now in full effect.
Korean Name: 지금 우리 학교는
Genre: Thriller, Action, Zombie, Drama, Survival
Number of Episodes: 12 episodes
Episode Length: 53–72 minutes
Recommended For: Every zombie series enthusiast out there
NOT Recommended For: Viewers who easily gets lost when there are too many characters in a scene
Students of Hyosan High suddenly found themselves fighting for their lives after a mysterious virus turning people into deadly zombies started to take over the campus.
Park Ji-hu as Nam On-Jo
Yoon Chan-young as Lee Cheong-San
Cho Yi-hyun as Choi Nam-Ra
Park Solomon as Lee Su-Hyeok
Yoo In-soo as Yoon Gwi-Nam
Lee Yoo-mi as Lee Na-Yeon
Im Jae Hyuk as Yang Dae-Su
Ham Sung Min as Han Gyeong-Su
Lee Eun Saem as Park Mi-Jin
Ha Seung-ri as Jang Ha-Ri
Son Sang-yeon as Jang Woo-Jin
Ahn Seung-gyun as Oh Joon-Young
For roughly twelve hours of non-stop zombies wreaking havoc with romance and melodrama tossed in between, All of Us Are Dead will take you into a whirlwind of emotions. The opening scene tugs your heartstrings right away, establishing that the show was anchored in a subject that remains a prevalent issue of our society today—bullying. Jin-su (played by Lee Min-goo), was a constant target of bullies at school, and if that wasn’t painful enough, justice isn’t his ally, too.
Out of a desperate attempt to make him stronger to fight back, Byeong-chan (played by Kim Byung-chul), his father, created a virus that turned his child into a living corpse instead. As you look at it on a more profound level, one can realize how far someone can go when they’ve been an enduring victim of injustice. In the All of Us Are Dead universe, that endless bullying towards one person resulted in the loss of thousands of lives.
Seeing high school students now forced to make life-or-death decisions adds a stirring paradox to the show, considering high school is believed to be the best years of anyone’s life. Reinventing the good old zombie apocalypse trope is challenging, but All of Us Are Dead deserves credit for presenting viewers with thought-provoking perspectives.
Aside from flesh-eating monsters, you also get introduced to hambies or half-human, half-zombies. These are creatures who, despite getting bitten, managed to adapt. It was a clever plot detail to keep viewers intrigued on how these beings will affect the protagonists along the way.
The struggle of students to make it out alive was portrayed realistically—bad decisions were made, and self-sacrifice rose as a running theme. However, the deaths of a few characters like Cheong-San, Woo-Jin, Joon-young, and even On-jo’s father (played by Jeon Bae-soo) felt it surfaced for mere shock value rather than trigger a genuine emotional response of those watching.
You can sense it happening, and whether it was deliberately done or not caused the series to be less impactful on some parts. The clash between Cheong-San and Gwi-Nam didn’t make sense either, considering they don’t have an in-depth history of being at each other’s throats.
Eun-ji would’ve been a much better-suited nemesis for Gwi-Nam. He was one of her bullies, and not to mention, both of them became hambies. It was a perfect opportunity to push for one final battle royale between the bully and the bullied that was wasted. Minor details like these, if executed properly, would’ve given All of Us Are Dead a grittier tone.
The ending wasn’t spectacular, but it was neat. Episode 12 mainly showed what happened to the characters following the gruesome events and how they’re dealing with their new life inside the quarantine camp. An allusion for season two was there, and it would be interesting to see how the All of Us Are Dead universe can be further explored with hambies now at its core.
Characters and Performances
If you’re planning a follow spree of the cast on social media, you’ve probably noticed by now that there’s quite a mouthful of names mentioned throughout the series. While having many characters isn’t always a bad thing, there’s a tendency for some to fade away without a more well-defined narrative. At one point, there are just too many storylines going on that didn’t add new layers to the show. The young girl (played by Lee Chae-Eun) with her child, for instance, could’ve been great additions to On-jo’s crew because it will help push the all for survival storyline at a higher level.
Still, everyone did a stellar job portraying their roles. Director Lee Jae-Kyoo explained in a released six-minute featurette that casting fresh faces for the Netflix show was intentional, and it worked. Nobody knows what to expect, but there’s rawness you can presently feel. Seeing Park Ji-hu, Yoon Chan-young, Cho Yi-Hyun, and Park Solomon deliver what their respective characters were asking was noteworthy. Although Yi-Hyun as Nam-Ra could’ve been more fleshed out since she later became a hambie, it might also be the classic case of needed character imperfection to propel the story along.
Lee Yoo-mi is worth mentioning, too, as she’s probably made everyone fume in anger over what she did Gyeong-Su (don’t worry, we’ll spare you a spoiler on this one). And how can anybody forget Yoo In-soo? He was a formidable yet charismatic antagonist.
Showing chemistry and compelling acting simultaneously as the cameras roll is challenging, but All of Us Are Dead managed to do so tastefully. What’s more, there was choreography involved with how zombies move around to make them believable! You can see everything was planned out, even to the tiniest detail.
Cinematography and Visuals
The fact that All of Us Are Dead built a four-story school structure from scratch should immediately tell you the budget wasn’t lacking at all. This is where most of the major scenes took place, and you won’t even doubt it’s not an actual school from a viewing standpoint. Viewers can also appreciate how they play with the lighting and colors of the show.
Sure, it’s not a gorefest like what you’ll expect out of most zombie series, but every dot of shade makes everything pop out. Even a scene where corpses run after students in broad daylight was artistic storytelling in itself. Several big heart-pounding scenes like those in the cafeteria, school hallway, and music room’s PTA room, among others, allowed the viewers to put themselves in the characters’ shoes. Everything was coherent and won’t confuse you with unnecessary shots.
Friendship, survival, romance, and intense action all come together in "All of Us Are Dead." If you're a big fan of these themes, this show is made for you. There were a few misses as the story unravels, but it's a great show, regardless.