Alive (2023) Review
We’re a month into 2023 and already we have A Night of the Undead and now Alive, not to be confused with Rob Grant’s Alive, coming our way to remind us that, no matter how many times it’s predicted, the zombie genre refuses to die. This time out the dead are walking across the Atlantic in the UK where a brief montage of scenes opens the film. A teacher being told to read information to her class, a man boarding up his house, police battling the creatures, and a minister delivering a fire and brimstone sermon. It serves as an introduction to the situation and some of the characters we’ll be meeting.
Dan (Neil Sheffield, Witchcraft X: Mistress of the Craft, Cash in Hand) who we saw boarding up his house is now hunting, getting water from the creek, and feeding something in his attic. Elsewhere Miss Horton (Simone McIntyre, Deadmeat, Decline of an Empire ) is trying to reach the safety of a settlement on a coastal island. along with her are Helen (Ellen Hillman), and her boyfriend Kevin (Kian Pritchard). There’s also Barney (Andrew and Daniel May-Gohrey), Helen’s younger brother who’s been bitten but seems to resist turning as long as he’s fed raw meat.
The film quickly heads out into the countryside where the film’s plot is more in line with its budget. The kids are separated from their teacher and, as you might guess, run across Dan. There’s also a group of survivors led by Father Albert ( Stuart Matthews, The Surrogate of Infidelity, Rearview) who may pose a bigger threat than the walking dead.
It’s obvious from the start that writer/director David Marantz (Forbidden Cuba, Angel of Saigon) made Alive on next to no money. A scene of a burning building has truly dire CGI smoke effects and the police vs zombie battle consists of three or four cops and six or seven zombies at most. It’s unfortunate because the building plays no part in the plot and could have been cut once they saw how bad it looks. The fight scene could have worked if a few more friends and family members could have been talked into playing zombies.
Thankfully, beyond those two scenes, the filmmakers match their aspirations to their budget. That’s fairly easy because Alive tends to concentrate on human versus human issues rather than zombie attacks. And, it has a few hits and misses in that department. While it’s treated as a mystery the secret of what’s in Dan’s attic is not only cliched but pretty obvious from the start. On the other hand, Father Albert’s congregation turned cult makes for effectively nasty antagonists, especially after their plans for Helen are revealed.
The real problem is that Alive never really establishes the zombies themselves as a major threat. Romero’s zombie films were also as much about the interaction of the human cast as they were about the zombies. But he also made sure the audience saw what they were capable of early in the film as well, something Marantz doesn’t do, what little gore there is comes late in the film.
What really does work however is the ending, which goes somewhere I really wasn’t expecting. It’s a strange, hopeful ending that questions the standard concept of what is considered a monster and makes up for a lot of the film’s other flaws.
For a micro-budget film shot on weekends and around COVID lockdowns Alive looks good and has several good moments. It also has a few rough spots but it gets through them and delivers a solid final act and ending. Fans of low-budget filmmaking and more tolerant mainstream fans should enjoy it.
Alive premieres on digital platforms on January 31st from Gravitas Ventures. You can check the film’s website or Facebook page for more information. If your interest in zombies is still alive, FilmTagger can recommend some titles for you.