Zombieverse can’t escape its ludicrous premise, but that’s part of the charm. The latest South Korean reality series to hit Netflix eschews romance (though it does star a contestant of Singles Inferno Season 2) for fake blood, gore, and widespread mayhem, at least for the first ten minutes.
In this Korean reality show, a group of celebrities (our group of survivors), from Idols to comedians, have been gathered to participate in a fake dating show where they’ll play the commentators to those looking to find the one. However, as they stand in a separate room watching the live footage of the contestants flirting, things succumb to chaos when one of those participating aims for the throat of the man she’d been paired up with, ripping “flesh” as blood spurts from the wound. It’s a zombie outbreak, and everyone must evacuate immediately in an attempt to survive a real zombie apocalypse and stay out of harm’s way as the virus breaks out.
Of course, the celebrities involved are in on the joke, but as we’re told at the top of Episode 2, they’re participating in an “immersive” manner, so the stakes are real to them to an extent. It’s all inconsequential fluff, especially compared to recent reality series such as Physical 100 and Siren: Survive the Island, but there are plenty of reasons to watch the show and turn your brain off while doing so.
Here are three reasons why you should check out Zombieverse and it’s take on a zombie virus outbreak.
The committed cast are terrific
Let it be known that the cast, for the most part, is largely in sync with the nonsensical plight they’ve found themselves in. Idol Tsuki of Billlie fame, in particular, manages to sell the fear of the scenario, even if it’s mainly at what amounts to be an excessively detailed haunted house. Her face while they sit stuck at a gas station as the zombie actors surround the car demonstrates real anxiety that it’s hard not to get caught up in her fear, and she and actress Lee Si-young make for a charming pair as Tsuki often is sticking to the Sweet Home and Boys Over Flowers star.
The entire cast is an eclectic bunch, from former baseball players to a Youtube and television personality, Jonathan Thona. But the majority of the humor that isn’t situational-based is because of the dynamic and commentary by Park Na-rae and Ro Hong-chul. Both are seasoned television stars and hosts. Park has appeared in series such as I Live Alone and Amazing Saturday, while Noh, who has also appeared in I Live Alone, has also taken part in series such as Infinite Challenge.
The two make for terrific banter, especially as Noh is painted as the snake of the group as he continues to try and throw Park under the bus. Park, who has been recovering from a leg injury, is hardly treated with any delicacy from Noh, who constantly suggests she be the one to risk her “life” in the game.
There’s immersive world-building
Not to be too fine a point on it, but Zombieverse isn’t so much a good show as it is a fun one. But beyond the cast, the other most notable aspect is the production. From the choreography of the first breakout on the set of the fake romance series to the zombie designs and how they’ve been instructed to move is all well thought out and conceptualized. Again, think big haunted house energy. We (me) know that the man holding chainsaw isn’t actually going to hurt us and that they’re just a performer, but the smell of gasoline and the dark enshrouding us still manage to send the alerts signaling danger to our brain.
What helps Zombieverse is this same effect where obviously, with the camera crew and the purposefully staged direction that leads our cast from point A to point B, there’s enough well-thought-out staging to immerse ourselves in the world. Sure, the cast makes one another laugh throughout these proposed life-and-death situations, but the makeup and prosthetic work on the undead zombie extra number 8 is extraordinarily gruesome.
It’s mindless fun
If you aren’t thinking too hard about it, Zombieverse is a hilariously ridiculous show that is best when it leans into the inherent absurdity. There are rules, of course, namely that contestants survive a mission without getting bitten. They also learn early rules about these scripted zombies, such as that they react only to noise, like those of The Last of Us, and that there are varying speeds of zombies, some who amble and others that sprint.
With the combination of the production team of All of Us Are Dead and the choreography team from Kingdom, there’s a slick level of control over the elements and settings that make the rules of the world necessary. The actors can’t fight the zombies since they’re actors, so they’re mainly asked to evade and block, coming together as a team when the initial group runs into a second party of survivors in the second episode. From a gas station and a grocery store to a theme park, the contestants are carted all over Seoul throughout this reality action series. While it doesn’t ask them to display the type of physical fortitude of other reality series, it prompts the age-old question: would you survive during a zombie apocalypse?
And this is part of the mindless fun of the series. The cast is often hilarious and deeply committed to the bit, but the show is even better as a way to comment on our survival instincts. Would you team up with a group or go solo? If you did team up with a group, would you stay with them for long or only for a period of time? Would you be the person acting only in self-interest or the one who would rally and offer themselves up as bait to distract the zombies while the rest of the party ran for safety? Are we Akira from Zom 100, Bill, and Frank in The Last of Us? Are we simply locking the doors and hoping for the best?
Zombieverse isn’t asking us to take it too seriously, and that’s part of the fun. Instead, it’s demonstrating the effects of the human condition — the selfish, self-centered, and commendable aspects — as we watch a group of celebrities run, scream, and run again as actors painted in zombie makeup chase them in an elaborate game of tag. It’s exactly what’s needed if what’s needed is some mindless fun.
All 8 episodes of Zombieverse are available now on Netflix.