Story: A super busy, super self-absorbed businessman and his young daughter board a train so she can visit visit her mom in Busan, South Korea. But an obviously ill girl got on board too… I’m sure she’s not infected with any kind of zombie virus. Next stop? The apocalypse!
Scares: So many heart in throat moment, you may want to get your doctor’s okay before digging in.
Splat factor: Lots of blood, infection-type icky, and medium-range biting/wounds. No gore per se, but tons of the ol’ ultraviolence.
Closing scene “shocker”?: Nup. Yay!
Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: While the zombie genre has a slew of films, this one is refreshingly original.
Trick or Treat?: Hey there, film fan. Yeah you, the one who hates subtitles because reading. Suck it up, buttercup. Train to Busan is a smart, innovative gripping nail biter of a film. Oh, and it’s scary as hell. Believe me, you’ll thank me later.
Think of this film as Snowpiercer but with zombies. As the train becomes overrun with zombies, so does South Korea as a whole (and possibly the world). So stopping at stations to let people on and off becomes an impossibility. Keep moving, keep safe. Except for those train cars filled with infected…
The main foursome – businessman Seok-woo (Yoo Gong), his daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim), the gruff but fair husband Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma), and his very pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jung) – all deliver stellar performances. Especially amazing, as Soo-an Kim was around ten years old at the time. But they’re not the only interesting characters in this
Love Boat Train To Hell. Two elderly sisters riff off each other like Statler and Waldorf on The Muppet Show, but there’s a touching bond between the sisters that makes them more than simple comic relief.
Then there’s the film itself. Beautifully minimal wide shots that show the devastation outside keep things from feeling too claustrophobic. Empty cars piled up on the roads, with a stuffed toy rabbit sitting in a pool of blood. “Your safety is not in jeopardy” from the newsman, as an extreme wide shot shows smoke billowing throughout the city, and a building bursts into flame. The news stations as narration keep give a wider view as well, with Governmental propaganda like “please refrain from reacting to baseless rumors”, plays on loudspeakers as the passengers see what’s really going on outside the train.
While it’s obvious that Seok-woo is gonna have to step up and care about more than himself, director Sang-ho Yeon also takes a broader swipe at society. Classicism is definitely examined – a seemingly homeless looking guy gets thoroughly questioned by train security for simply riding the train, but an obviously ill middle class teen stumbles around and nobody bats and eye. Y’know, til it’s too late.
The zombies? Oh, they’re fast, from the speed they become infected to the infected themselves. These are World War Z-esque infected that act like carriers ready to spread the virus far and wide rather than feasting on their current victim. Did I mention the whole full train packed with passengers? The level of dramatic irony dials up hard, as passengers in the front cars have no idea what sort of devastation is headed their way. Fantastic sense of dread, because while you know what’s going on, the characters don’t. And thanks to the confined spaces of the train, they can’t see what’s coming until it’s practically on top of them. It’s all effective as hell.
Check this one out. Actually, put this at the top of your queue and bump the rest of your stuff down. You won’t be disappointed.
Score: 5 out of 5 pumpkins.