TRAIN TO BUSAN
South Korea (2016) 118 minutes.
Directors/writers: Yeon Sang-ho
Cast: Gong Yoo (Seok-woo), Kim Soo-an (Soo-an), Jung Yu-mi (Seong-kyeong), Ma Dong-seok (Sang-hwa)
Screening 28 March 2018 at Swindon Arts Centre
Like all classic zombie movies, this is a wonderfully over-the-top slice of surreal social commentary. Investment manager Seok-woo is a divorced man who lives in Seoul, with his daughter, Soo-an, and his mother. He is a workaholic and neglects Soo-an, who misses her mother. On Soo-an's birthday, she asks to visit her mother in Busan, and Seok- woo travels with her, with the intention of returning after lunch. They board the fast train, but a sick woman also boards another car. During the journey, the woman attacks a member of the train staff and soon all the passengers in the car are attacked, turning into zombies. Seok-woo realises to his horror that there is a zombie outbreak taking place throughout the country. So along their journey the passengers have to fight the zombies as well as the selfishness of their fellow ‘normal’ human beings...
Characters you can’t help but care about? Check. A spot of amped-up social commentary? Check. Lashings of bloody, bite-y mayhem? Check.
Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan, a South Korean horror film about a train journey disrupted by an on-board zombie outbreak, achieves the dual feat of (a) making Southern Rail look like quite a reasonable train line, and (b) being pretty much everything you could possibly want a zombie film to be.
There’s a stylish, splattery flair to Yeon’s zombie apocalypse as ordered public spaces, all cool blue tones and clean lines, are taken over by the slavering, crooked-limbed horde. On the train, zombies surge from carriage to carriage like seawater flooding the compartments of a sinking ship, while an ill-advised stop at an en route station only adds to the claustrophobic horror .
Ultimately, however, the film’s greatest strength is its surprising humanity: Train to Busan forces you to care not just about Seok-woo and Soo- an, but about all of the individuals caught up in the chaos.
Rebecca Hawkes, Daily Telegraph
Yeon has come up with a take on zombies that is rooted deep in the genre but still feels innovative. Like Romero’s undead, these are an inescapable evil spreading across the world to offer a sly commentary on our modern society. Like the ‘infected’ in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, they’re fast and strong. Like the swarming hordes of World War Z, there’s something insect-like about their ravenous pursuit of these few uninfected hold-outs.
However in the end, Yeon Sang-ho goes back to the human story and delivers a surprisingly emotional climax – maybe family ties were the point all along...
Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly entertaining take on the zombie genre, with fully realised characters and plenty of social commentary to underscore the bursts of skilfully staged action.
Helen O’Hara, Empire / Rotten Tomatoes
- The film premiered in the Midnight Screenings section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2016.
- The genre is not labelled as horror. It is categorised instead as action, suspense and thriller as it is not deemed to include a theme of gore.
- It has been watched by more than 11 million movie-goers in South Korea.