Let’s face it: zombies have overstayed their welcome.
If you need any proof of zombie oversaturation, just do a cursory search of zombie mobile games in your phone, and you’ll find loads of undead-related mobile shenanigans of varying quality. It is with this oversaturation that I’ve long given up on watching shows like The Walking Dead, and have generally avoided anything zombie-related for the last couple of years.
I admit, I kind of went in and watched Train to Busan barely knowing what it was about. I never saw a trailer, never even picked up a single news item about it – except for my friends gushing about how good the movie was. They also helpfully did not give away the premise. When I found out that it involved zombies three hours before I watched it, I almost went for Godzilla: Resurgence instead.
You have no idea how much I am raving about Train to Busan right now.
Warning: Spoilers for Train to Busan from this point
Following a group of terrified bullet train passengers fighting their way through a zombie outbreak, Train to Busan is a harrowing non-stop ride from start to finish. Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) grudgingly takes his daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an) on the KTX high-speed train to Busan to visit his ex-wife, as they are unaware that the zombie apocalypse has already started to break out around them. An infected woman manages to slip past and get on the train. She turns in transit, and as is the case with all zombie apocalypses, all hell breaks loose.
What surprised me about Train to Busan is how quickly the zombies turn – they collapse, convulse a bit, and that’s it. They’re now fast as hell and ready to bite and infect the next person. And yes, we need to talk about that. I prefer my zombies slow. To paraphrase Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, slow monsters are scarier – fast monsters will catch you, yes, but a slow monster, no matter how much you run away from it, will catch up to you eventually. But the fast zombies of Train to Busan totally work.
The movie moves in such a fast-paced harrowing pace, barely giving you time to breathe. Putting all of that within the claustrophobic confines of a bullet train only serves to heighten the tension even more.
Of course it’s not a zombie film without the obligatory social commentary. Coming from the MV Sewol disaster of 2014 where the South Korean government was heavily criticized for handling the crisis inadequately, the government in Train to Busan is shown to be incompetent, barely a presence, and preferring to cover up the impending apocalypse instead of protecting the populace.
Of course, the movie also touches on Korean class inequalities – which I admit I am not aware of – with how the COO Yong-suk manages to create an environment of mistrust among the passengers, even sacrificing the train’s conductor and engineer for his own safety, and does it so easily thanks to his position of power. The social commentary is done well and is in line with director Yeon Sang-ho’s previous films which have had more scathing political commentary.
All in all, Train to Busan is a fantastic, harrowing, fresh take on the zombie genre with a touch of K-Drama melodramatics that is worth watching in the cinemas.
Have you seen Train to Busan? Let’s talk about it! Feel free to leave a comment below.
NOTE: We also have a review for Train to Busan over at What’s A Geek