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With the rise of what has now become a very stale Walking Dead TV series and some pretty appalling shows like iZombie, as well as dreadful movies like the World War Z, The Resident Evil Series and Warm Bodies our cup hath definitely flowethed overededd.
Particularly in the case of Warm Bodies, you know something you love is completely irredeemable when it gets the teen movie/twilight treatment. Not to mention the fact that the undead hordes had even extended themselves to merchandise aimed at kids. How fucked up is that? What’re you playing with kids, oh just an effigy on a necrotic human reanimated and hell bent on consuming my flesh, have fun. Don’t stay up too late.
And while the genre had been completely diluted there are still filmmakers with the passion and ability to deliver the odd gem and this is definitely the case with Korean director Sang-ho Yeon and co-writer Joo-Suk Park, the creative brains (excuse the pun) behind Train to Busan. I know, real zombies don’t say ‘braaaaainnnns’ that only happened in The Return of The Living Dead movies, which were pretty much parodies.
South Korea has had its fair share of great movies too. The amazing and shocking film from 2003 Oldboy and the monster black-comedy thriller The Host are two stand out films for me. I kind of had a good feeling about Last Train To Busan because of that.
I stumbled across this in the middle of one of those Netflix sessions where you go to watch something, spend about an hour adding shit to your favourites and then realise you don’t have enough time to actually watch anything… Man, that is such a pain in the arse when that happens.
Anyway, I’d put it in the queue and thought nothing of it until I saw a few other people in the reviewer community mentioning it.
And here we are.
All aboard the Train to Busan.
I love the whole idea of this film, we’ve seen tonnes of zombie films, tonnes of train films too, but has there ever been a zombies on a train film?
The story goes like this. Seok-woo is a career driven father, recently separated from his wife, living with his daughter and mother. He’s a bit of a self absorbed dick. His daughter is Su-an thankfully must have inherited a lot of her traits from her mother’s side.
It’s Su-an’s birthday and deadbeat dad gets an attack of the guilts after missing her recital at school and so to make it up to Su-an, Seok- woo makes good on a promise to take her to Busan to see her mother.
You can guess what happens from here right? They board the train, news reports start coming in, people getting freaky, a sick person boards the train and then BAM!
It’s zombie apocalypse time.
There are a couple of things I needed to get over to really enjoy this movie. The running zombie thing. I hate the running zombie thing. I’m an ambling George A. Romero zombie type of person. That running zombie shit really annoyed me about the re-boot of Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days and Weeks Later. They ran in Zombieland too didn’t they? Fuck, I liked that movie.
Slow down zombies, you’re dead. There’s nothing to be late for.
The other thing was having to concentrate on subtitles for the entire movie. I know it sounds kind of ignorant in saying that but reading a film while taking in the visuals is a slightly more demanding task than just mindlessly allowing the words and pictures to enter your brain. Thankfully, I’m a parent and when sleep befalls my household, quite often closed captions are the difference between knowing what the fuck is going on in a movie and not, regardless of the language.
Neither of these things niggling little problems are that much of an issue when the film is really good.
Train to Busan has all the standard fare of a good zombie movie: zombies, a rag tag bunch of survivors, tension in spades and actually a lot more drama than I expected.
It’s all put together so well in the beginning and middle acts that by the time you get to the final third of the film and the shit starts to really hit the fan you are so invested in the characters you really are on the emotional rollercoaster, or in this case train with them. And while it’s not a short film, clocking in at almost two hours it never drags, it keeps the momentum throughout.
Those running zombies, they are truly terrifying in this movie, in spite of my preconceived idea as to what and what should not be in this fictional universe when zombies walk the earth, the running dead actually works. They come across as being absolutely unstoppable. In this interpretation these creatures they react to sight and sound, so as soon as they see a human target, they are on it and chomping away.
You can imagine how something like this goes down in the confined space of a train. It is the perfect setting for building tension. Especially when halfway through the film we see some of our rag-tag survivors, including little Su-an separated from the group and trapped in one of the toilets right in the middle of a zombie infested carriage. The rescue effort to retrieve them is edge of the seat stuff.
The cast are also pretty great but for me, as soon as you put a kid right in the middle of a Zombie film, you’ve upped the stress levels by about a thousand. The child in the zombie movie, if done correctly is the ultimate plot device, for they are the one true character that represents the hope and innocence of humanity among a group of selfish adult survivors pushing their own agendas, while working trying to save their own skins. I also think if suddenly we found ourselves in an actual zombie apocalypse, parents are the ones who have to work infinitely harder to keep themselves and their kids alive, they along with the sick and the elderly are at the top of the food chain and the bottom of the survival pecking order. I have thought about this a lot. Maybe too much, but you’ve got to have a plan right?
Anyway, child actor Soo-an Kim who plays Seok Woo’s daughter, Soo-an, is the standout performer of this film. This kid has gots the gift! She is a great actor. She doesn’t come across like that annoying child character that you experience in a lot of western movies. She seems to have a maturity that defies her years and projects an innocence that will just tear your heart out.
Train to Busan was the zombie film I didn’t even realise I needed until I’d finished it. And while it wasn’t the antidote to my genre fatigue I feel like I can take an adequate break from zombies for a while now knowing that I went out on a high with this film.
Train to Busan Gets four out of five.
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