How well would you fare in survival situations? Zombie apocalypse? Extreme cold? A dalliance inside your own mind? How about if you are a TV personality tasked with overcoming obstacles but also making great television? The Zone: Survival Mission exposes three Korean celebrities to a slew of difficulties and gives them 4 hours to emerge victorious each time.
What Is The Zone: Survival Mission About?
Part The Crystal Maze part Squid Game, The Zone: Survival Mission is great fun when cut into ‘next episode’ trailers.
Our hosts yelp, squeal, and scrabble to figure out the keys to the puzzles in front of them. Yet even with 4 hours squashed into 1-hour episodes, you’d struggle to remain hooked purely based on this element, especially considering how conspicuously terrible our hosts seem to be.
Veteran variety show host and comedian Yoo Jae-suk is joined by actor and entertainer Lee Kwang-soo, with the pair of them rounded off by ex-idol group singer turned actor Kwon Yu-ri (Girls’ Generation).
The chemistry between these three will be the reason (or not) that you stick with the show rather than the execution of its concept, as fun as the concept is.
Our framing device is that the hosts are dubbed ‘the agents of mankind’ and are tasked to endure a total of eight disaster scenarios.
A wrap up statement from overall Artificial Intelligence host ‘AI U’ (voiced by You Hee-yeol) then seeks to tie the preceding nonsense into some arch warning.
Thus opening episode ‘Eye-Zone’ – in which a large abandoned building is supercooled and the hosts soaked with water whenever anything with an eye sees them – prattles on about how the Earth could indeed be super cold in the future. It’s a theme, and one you can ignore.
The Zone: Survival Mission Official Trailer
Is The Zone: Survival Mission Worth Watching?
The challenges themselves are reliably fun on the whole. The ‘Virus Zone’ takes heavy cues from 16th century zombie series Kingdom, except here the zombies only attack ‘good looking people’, which renders the male hosts safe (much to their irritation).
The ‘Safety Zone’ stuffs a house with as many Korean horror tropes as possible yet charges the hosts with personal distancing rules.
10 minutes are added to the time they must stay whenever they get too close to each other.
This is not an easy ask when drawers bang, cupboards rattle, and nightmarish actors stalk them through dark corridors; there is sly fun in the idea of abject horror being used effectively train effective social distance rules!
Despite these great concepts the main basis for each episode is the same: bickering. The hosts have great chemistry as they shout and belittle each other but this takes up so much of each episode it can get wearing, especially when it appears the games are sabotaged to create content.
Genuine jump scares are fun to watch in The Safety Zone for example, but the male hosts in particular break the personal distancing rule so often that the fun in watching their cowering diminishes each time.
Believability put to one side, The Zone: Survival Mission is oddly compelling and has the same vibe as Run For The Money, the Japanese survival game.
The production budget for each episode is impressively high (The Water Zone – set in a bog standard bath house – less so) and despite dragging out its run time there are enough laughs to keep you watching.
You may not survive the whole show, but it is worth getting into the zone for.
Words by Mike Record