Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim & Dong-seok Ma
Synopsis: While a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.
Rating: 15 Duration: 118 minutes Release date: 27 February (UK)
The horror genre has been a consistent source not just for scares and first date nights, but really good horror has dictated the genre and speaks to the audience on so many levels. Political and social issues are often raised as are racial tensions; look no further than George Romero’s original Living Dead trilogy to see all of these aspects explored. Yeon Sang-ho’s full throttle zombie film dares to be something different and delivers not only a dazzling spectacle, but also a surprisingly heartfelt film.
City worker and fund-manager Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) is a workaholic with little time for anything else. His wife is estranged, and his daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim) has little in the way of a relationship with her father. For her birthday, Soo-an wants nothing more than to visit her mother in Busan, her father instead buys her a Nintendo Wii for the umpteenth year in a row. After some negotiation Seok-woo is persuaded by his daughter’s pleas and agrees to take her to Busan the following day. An early morning journey is broken up by several scenes of emergency crews attending unknown incidents elsewhere in the city. Despite boarding their train safely, things soon start to go wrong when a passenger with a mystery ailment spreads chaos throughout the train.
It’s easy to point to the horror genre, and in particular the zombie sub-genre as something that needs cleansing. Horror films have, to a degree become rote and predictable offering little to fans both hardcore and casual. But, delve deeper and you will find gems hidden all over. In particular, Asian horror has a pedigree and current wave of confidence similar to the popular American horrors of the 70’s and 80’s. With that, Train to Busan injects new life into the genre; with Romero’s eye for social satire combined with the modern trait of zombies running really fast, it has the feel of something not quite unique, but definitely exceptional.
Keeping the action in an isolated location is a brave move. Zombie films often, at least recently, move the in between locales in order for the audience to get a sense of scope. But, the best horror films keep things small and tight creating a siege mentality. Train to Busan soon becomes cramped and claustrophobic as our heroes find themselves penned in by the living dead. Another unique feature used by Sang-ho is to have his zombies operate by sight only; they are not after brains and don’t smell living flesh, this characteristic brings something different to the film and allows for some great scenes unlike anything seen in recent memory. Sang-ho also plays with some great imagery and mirroring that are immediately obvious, in a good way, and also act upon current social issues.
All that can be found if you scratch the surface and dig a little deeper, but if you just want a bullet fast zombie film then you can have that too. Train to Busan has some of the most memorable scenes in any action film, let alone horror. A taut escalator scene leads into a truly nail crunching train station scene that just about outdoes anything you will see in World War Z or even The Walking Dead. It’s one heck of a scene in an altogether brilliant film, that also packs enough emotional punch to leave you reeling by the end.
- Making of Train to Busan
- Sneak peak of Train to Busan animated prequel Seoul Station
- Seoul Station trailer