Zombie-centered films and television shows are a dime-a-dozen. From 28 Days Later to I am Legend to television mainstay The Walking Dead, the zombie action genre exploded in the last few decades, inundating audiences with a swarm of flesh-devouring content. This oversaturation of brain-eating monsters, however, eventually led to a tired, overblown trope, with every film following the same formula. Now, zombie movies are excessive and redundant.
However, every now and then, a zombie film comes along that breathes fresh life into Hollywood’s favorite monster. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead was a grand slam in 2004, refreshing audiences with a hilarious zombie film that defies tired clichés by blending gory violence with witty humor. The 2016 Korean film Train to Busan is another that brought an exciting take to the zombie trope through thrilling horror, genuine fun, and thoughtful social commentary. Few zombie films are as thoughtful or as innovative as these two, but when they are, they prove to be a success.
Perhaps this is what zombies need in order to remain undead—innovation. Zombie-media needs to follow the paths of Shaun of the Dead or Train to Busan, or else they just fall through the cracks of formulaic, dead storytelling. Netflix’s new Korean series may be pursuing just this. Kingdom released its first trailer this week, showcasing a horrific, historical, and divergent take on zombies by setting this show during Medieval Korea. Watch the trailer below.
I’m sold on this trailer. It looks exciting, frightening, and most importantly, different. I absolutely love this setting. It’s not set in the apocalypse and our heroes won’t be fighting zombies with guns. Rather, we’ll see these protagonists fighting with swords and other close-range weapons, keeping the monsters ever so close to their brains. This obviously adds a dangerous dynamic to their fight against the undead. How can they afford to keep these zombies so close to them? As the trailer shows, these zombies move frighteningly fast, so it would be difficult to fight them off with such limited weaponry. Perhaps they could turn to archery, but even then, it would still be difficult to fight off swarms of unfeeling monsters running toward you. How they’ll fight these zombies are just one element of storytelling that I’m excited to see.
Furthermore, with undeveloped technology, I have no idea how this show will progress. Will they be developed enough to find a cure? Will they even be able to comprehend what’s attacking them? How will they treat their wounded? This lack of technological development presents an interesting layer among their interactions with the undead. I can’t wait to see how they’ll tackle these issues.
There also seems to be hints of royal drama and secrets dispersed throughout the film. What have they done to the king? Is the king a zombie? Where have the zombies come from? Why are the royal guards keeping secrets from the Crown Prince (Ju Ji-hoon) and why are they drawing swords on him? This trailer certainly teases all these questions and as Korean television executes period shows quite excellently, we can be sure to expect plenty of drama interspersed through the flesh-eating and zombie killing.
According to Variety, Kingdom has already been renewed for a second season, even before its January premiere. Although this is unusual for Netflix, it suggests they have great confidence the show will succeed. Personally, this only instills greater excitement for me as a viewer, raising my expectations sky-high. With the promise of blood, brains, and royal drama, I’m certainly excited to see how Kingdom will tie everything together.