| While a zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.
Touted as South Korea’s first zombie film, Train to Busan has a lot riding on its shoulders; pleasing genre fans, satiating the general audience, and making bank in the box office. And unsurprisingly, it’s a film that succeeds at each, as the quality boom in South Korean filmmaking in the past decade and a half has shown repeatedly. Though the film lacks innovation in progressing the horror subgenre – the ‘temporary weakness’ of the film’s zombies doesn’t count, director Yeon Sang-ho offsets it with filmmaking creativity in staging action sequences befitting the film’s title.
The movie keeps things simple: train, zombies, stations, and a bunch of people that will try to survive (some of them will do anything to do so). In that respect it is not especially original. The plot is thin as it comes, but the direction keeps things fast and breezy, and plot developments keep happening non-stop. The direction is a little bit video-game style, but fits the movie quite well. The originality in the fights between the zombies and the survivors is one of the strong points of the movie, with some surprising moments. On the other hand, it can’t help but fall into the “I-don’t-want-to-live-without-you” moments, or some extra saccharine situations. Also, some of the characters’ decision-making is just silly, and even if a couple of moments are clearly comedy, the line between comedy and action-horror is not clearly drawn, and some laughs are more on the “wrong-time” side. Actually, the movie is not very scary, but it is quite the ride.
I loved how relentless and aggressive the Zombies were. More like 28 days later than Romero. The special effects do get a little cartoony with zombies that seem to come form nowhere piling over one another like poring cereal into a bowl or something, but it does give you that man, these guys are screwed feel. Train to Busan focus on the idea that the Walking Dead sense you through sight and sound. If they can not see you or hear you they have no way of knowing your living flesh is a foot away from their hunger. It made for some cleaver obstacles when a group of passengers have to maneuver through train cars filled with zombie passengers
Also found it interesting that no zombies were shot in this picture. I don’t know how Korean gun control laws work, but I can assume it’s strict enough that the story would make no sense if someone on the train just happen to have one for zombie killing (unlike an American movie in which the unborn child having a gun would be fine so long as it moved along the story). Definitely a rarity in a Zombie picture and it worked.
That isn’t to say the film excels at what it tries to explore whilst zombies who look like Koreans at an open buffet with kimchi on their faces attempt to kill everyone in sight, but the effort by the filmmakers in constructing something that is a little more than a generic zombie action thriller is commendable, and the straight-faced, oddly lacking in the usual Korean comedic eccentricities Train to Busan is certainly more than a generic splatterfest.
‘Train to Busan’ (부산행) gets a 6.8/10.
Next review we go to China to review Johnnie To’s “Three”