Train to Busan
If there is one subgenre of horror that is majorly oversaturated, it’s zombie films. At some point during the early 2000’s, the zombie genre exploded, and every other month a new zombie flick was being released. The big problem is that they were all very low budget affairs, shot on crappy cameras or with amateur directors and actors helming the films. If you’ve seen flicks such as ‘Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave’, ‘Cockneys vs Zombies’ or ‘Autumn’ (plus many more I could mention), you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’m not sure where film makers got the idea that low budget zombie movies was a good idea, but it spread like wildfire. Even George Romero got in on the act, spilling out the atrocious ‘Diary of the Dead’ in 2007. Considering Land of the Dead was released just a couple of years previous, Diary was a low budget, low impact film that was a million miles from Romero’s previous movies. The low budget and terrible concept just lent itself to the reality that low budget and zombie films don’t mix, even if you have an amazing director on board.
Occasionally, a decent film would appear. Films such as Shaun of the Dead, Zombie Land and Planet Terror take the genre and turn it on its head, making outstanding and clever films that are easily enjoyed. But the majority are nasty, pointless films that are just painful to watch.
I just recently saw The Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie film ‘Maggie’, and I felt pretty burnt by both Arnie and the films trailer, that sold me a different film. So I approached Train to Busan, South Korean zombie flick, with trepidation. But straight from the start, you know that this is something special. And it really is. Train To Busan is my single zombie film of redemption. The genre does have hope.
The films plot revolves around Seok-woo, a workaholic fund manager and divorced single father, who is taking his daughter to see her mother at Busan. The journey is interrupted, as the zombie apocalypse breaks out and the survivors are trapped on train filled with flesh ripping zombies. Think ‘Snakes on a Plane’, but with zombies and trains, and you’re not far off. The film introduces us to a whole host of characters, but even at the start, you have an uneasy feeling that a lot of the people are not going to make it.
There are characters you’ll love, and ones you’ll hate, and you have to give credit to the wonderful script and casting for pulling you in so quickly. Little mannerisms and lines of dialogue set up each of the characters personality from their first screen moments, a feat some films fail to do in a full 90-minute run time. The point being, you just can’t help but love (and hate) the main survivors. You don’t need to get heavy on backstories and emotional ties to get a feel of a character, but it does help, and everybody feels fleshed out enough for you get behind straight from the start. Sometimes it does feel like the film is trying a little too hard, tugging on the old heart strings a little harder than needed, but it’s not a flaw, just a personal nit pick.
Having a solid set of characters helps to propel the film along, and I literally mean propel, as the survivors battle their way through a speeding train, with nothing but fists, luggage and anything else they can get their hands on. The action is thick and fast, and never feels over the top of pointless. Despite the limited space in the trains, the film manages to pack in a lot, making wonderful uses of the train to tell the story. I can’t overstate how difficult it is to shoot in such tight conditions, and yet cinematograph Hyung-deok Lee makes the entire film seamless, manages to make use of every inch of space. It’s when these big fight sequence happen that you’ll really feel Lee’s presence, with multiple camera angles and classic framing, that never feels choppy or out of place.. and whilst most of the action does happen on the train, there are plenty of thrills off the train too.
A good cast and crew aside, a huge part of the enjoyment for me was the un-dead. Very few films innovate the genre by making changes to the zombies, but Sang-ho Yeon’s vision of these creatures is quite outstanding. These creatures have lurching, jittery motions that I’ve never seen before. There’s a certain amount of ‘Rage’ to them, but not enough to be replicating the ’28 days Later’ infected. These involuntary muscle spasms and twitches really do turn make these creatures quite intimidating. I also noticed that the choreography of everyone playing the zombies was very tight. You’ll usually get an odd few people over acting or off key, but the entire horde felt very similar, with everyone performing the jittery undead motion throughout. They even improve something from one World War Z, which saw the zombies flowing like a wave down streets. It sounds cool but WWZ just botched it up with awful CGI. Busan pulls it off spectacular, blending real life with CGI to create a horrify wave of zombies building up and spilling down onto the camera. And they even take a few pointers from another great train movie, Snowpiercer, with tunnels playing heavily into fighting the undead.
Every good zombie film must have gore too, and there’s plenty here. The living dead look monstrous with bulging dislocated eyes, torn faces and bloody missing limbs. If you’re looking for high body count, plenty of gore and lots of fighting, Busan will have you covered (in blood).
Train to Busan is an action packed, well-paced film with plenty to love. It’s a zombie film that really breaks away from the slew of awful films we have been deluged with in recent years. Yes, some audience members will be turned off from the fact that it’s subtitled, but you can’t let a little thing like that get in the way of a brilliant film. It fast, furious and filled to the brim with tensions and gore. If you love Zombies films, this is one you just can’t miss.
Reviewed by Luke
Train To Busan
- Story 86% 86%
- Scares 55% 55%
- Gore 60% 60%
- Music 45% 45%