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All of Us Are Dead & 11 Other K-Zombie Hits to Watch

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

Korean zombies are all the rage – again! While South Korean dramas and films have been popular with international audiences for a while, there is one unique genre that seems to enjoy more crossover success. From the 2016 zombie blockbuster Train to Busan to the recent Netflix teen drama All of Us Are Dead, the "K-zombie" genre just keeps coming back with more surprises. Read on for 12 Korean zombie films and shows that you should not miss!

All of Us Are Dead
1. All of Us Are Dead
Following Squid Game's global success in 2021, Netflix kicked off 2022 with another huge Korean drama. All of Us Are Dead landed at #1 on the streaming platform for three consecutive weeks. Led by a young and fresh-faced cast, the thrilling story follows a group of Hyosan High School students fighting against a zombie outbreak that started in the school's science lab. Without any guidance from teachers or the government, the trapped students run around the school, from the classroom, broadcasting room and music room to the cafeteria, library and gymnasium, and make use of limited school equipment to survive the zombie and hambie (half-zombie) attack. Beyond eliciting jump scares with visual effects and special effects makeup, All of Us Are Dead sheds lights on social issues like teen pregnancy, bullying, school violence and, most importantly, the adults' ignorance of these problems. It also educates us with various trivia and to-dos in case of a disaster. The wait is on for All of Us Are Dead Season 2!

Train to Busan
2. Train to Busan
One of the most popular movies out of Asia in the past decade, Yeon Sang Ho's 2016 hit Train to Busan was a global success that brought the Korean zombie genre to the world stage. Earning top box office and many accolades, the action blockbuster stars Gong Yoo as a divorced father who boards an express train to Busan with his daughter while a zombie outbreak spreads from Seoul Station. At times unsettling and at times moving, Train to Busan depicts the passengers' desperate fight to survive and protect their loved ones in the chaotic zombie-filled train. Of course, we must not overlook the remarkable performances by famous actors like Jung Yoo Mi, Ma Dong Seok and Choi Woo SIk!

Seoul Station
3. Seoul Station
Train to Busan's harrowing animated prequel shows the start of the zombie outbreak at Seoul Station. Rendered in director Yeon Sang Ho's signature dark animation aesthetic with even darker themes, the horror thriller packs a hard punch as it shows the bloody fight for survival in the streets of Seoul, and the desperation of those running to find loved ones amid the mayhem. But more terrifying than the zombies are the people as Yeon tears through the thin façade of humanity. From the gritty start to its chilling conclusion, Seoul Station presents a hauntingly searing indictment of government impotency, social malaise and the casual cruelty of man.

4. Peninsula
What comes after the zombie apocalypse? Yeon Sang Ho's action-packed dystopian thriller is set four years after the events of Train to Busan and the fall of the Korean peninsula. Kang Dong Won plays a troubled ex-soldier who leads a rogue mission back into a desolate peninsula overrun with zombies to retrieve a truck of cash. With the mission going awry fast, he is rescued by a tenacious family of survivors. To escape the zombie peninsula, they have to fend off not only swarms of the undead but also a brutal militia headed by Koo Kyo Hwan. Peninsula is well worth watching not only for its top-notch action and effects but also for Yeon's different interpretation of the zombie genre set in the same universe.

5. Kingdom
Netflix entered the K-Drama game with a splash in 2019 with this period thriller that had everyone talking about not only zombies but also Joseon-era headwear. Directed by Kim Seong Hun, Kingdom stars Ju Ji Hoon as the crown prince and Bae Doo Na as a physician at a village where a mysterious virus breaks out. The series follows their fight to stop the plague as growing swarms of zombies advance towards the capital. However, there's already a zombie in the palace – the king. Filled with thrilling action, stunning visuals, political intrigue and shocking twists, Kingdom gave zombie horror a gripping new spin that riveted and excited over two six-episode seasons. There's also a slow-burning feature-length prequel episode – Kingdom: Ashin of the North starring Jun Ji Hyun – that reveals the origins of the undead.

6. #Alive
How far would you go just to stay #Alive in a zombie apocalypse? In writer-director Cho Il Hyung's feature, Yoo Ah In plays an online game streamer struggling to survive alone at home with very little food and water during a zombie outbreak. Helpless and desolate, he decides to take his own life until he finds another survivor, Park Shin Hye, in the opposite building. They become each other's source of comfort and risk their lives to escape the life-or-death situation together. As indicated in the title, #Alive goes beyond typical zombie horror movie thrills and invites audiences to think about why we are "alive" and what we live for.

Doomsday Book
7. Doomsday Book
This 2012 sci-fi fantasy omnibus spells the end of the world with three different absurd scenarios that test the limits and meaning of humanity. Naturally, there's a zombie apocalypse in there. Yim Pil Sung's story "Brave New World" opens the film with an amorous researcher (Ryoo Seung Bum) who gets infected with a zombie virus. This genre movie microcosm escalates quickly from a blind date to a full-on zombie takeover as the virus outbreak spreads rapidly through the city, all of which is relayed through amusing news footage.

8. Happiness
While the title may be Happiness, the story says otherwise. Set in a near future after the coronavirus pandemic has ended, this 2021 tvN thriller series pictures a dystopian world with another infectious disease outbreak caused by a failed COVID treatment drug. Park Hyung Sik and Han Hyo Joo take the roles of a police detective and a Special Operation Unit member who gets infected. Trapped in a luxurious residential building where a zombie virus breaks out, they get chased by zombie-like humans and confronted by neighbors reacting to the situation in different ways – some are selfless, some are merciless, and some only care about themselves. Happiness is action-packed at times, but most of all, it reflects on humanity and how we behave in a community during a pandemic.

The Neighbor Zombie
9. The Neighbor Zombie
Winning the Audience Award and Jury's Special Award at the 2009 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, this indie experimental zombie anthology comes from the intrepid filmmaking team that would go on to make other spunky low-budget genre efforts like Young Gun in Time and Invasion of Alien Bikini. The omnibus film is composed of six stories about life in the aftermath of a zombie virus outbreak in Seoul, as ordinary people in the neighborhood try to cope with the virus and protect zombified loved ones from authorities. Striking a balance of horror, comedy and social commentary, The Neighbor Zombie looks at zombies from a different perspective while still delivering genre gore.

The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale
10. The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale
Zombie movies are all about chills, thrills and blood spills, but The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale comes into the picture with a totally different tone and vibe. Jung Jae Young, Kim Nam Gil, Uhm Ji Won, Lee Soo Kyung and Park In Hwan form the odd family that puts a zombie on sale in the comedy-drama! The Parks' unlikely adventure begins with the father getting bitten by a zombie (Jung Ga Ram). Lucky enough, the elderly man doesn't turn into a zombie, and instead gets rejuvenated with youthful vitality. The Parks then come up with a plan to earn big money by selling this zombie-biting service, realizing too late that they're creating a mess that eventually gets out of hand. Lighthearted and amusing, The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale may change your views on zombies – they can be cute and romantic too!

11. Rampant
Before Netflix's Kingdom was released, the 2018 period actioner Rampant appeared as the first Korean movie to blend the zombie genre into a historical setting. From the same production house of Train to Busan, Rampant stars Hyun Bin as the exiled Prince Ganglim returning to Joseon to help his country survive a zombie plague that originally started on a foreign merchant ship. Palace politics and power struggles come into play with Jang Dong Gun as the Minister of War who will stop at nothing to take over the throne amid the zombie outbreak.

Zombie Detective
12. Zombie Detective
Ever wonder what zombies are thinking? Zombie Detective opens with Choi Jin Hyuk waking up in a landfill as a zombie with no memories of who he is or how he became undead. An inner monologue reveals his confusion, hopelessness and gradual acceptance as he struggles to control his appetite for flesh and train himself to speak and move properly. After a year of that, a chance arises for him to assume the identity of a murdered private detective. Beginning his undead life anew, he hides his secret while taking on cases and searching for clues to his past. This quirky 2020 KBS zombie drama combines detective noir, zombie comedy, existential drama, zany parodies and crime suspense into an entertaining and often unexpected genre-bender. Remember, zombies have feelings too!

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Published February 24, 2022

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