By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is of a South Korean zombie flick that is screening at the Phoenix Leicester for the UK Festival of Zombie Culture.
Train to Busan is written and directed by up-and-coming Korean filmmaker Sang-ho Yeon and stars Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim and Dong-seok Ma.
I had very little expectation of this movie before I entered the theatre. A few people had told me to catch it while I could; and so I did…
Sok-woo and his daughter Soo-an are boarding the KTX, a fast train that shall bring them from Seoul to Busan. But during their journey, the train is overrun by zombies which kill several of the train staff and other passengers. While the KTX is shooting towards Busan, the passengers must fight for their lives against the zombies.
Train to Busan begins like many other horror movies with the usual problematic family and the eventual apocalyptic theme. We see Sok-woo and his daughter Soo-an arguing because Sok spends too much time at work and himself. Reluctantly, the father agrees to let his daughter visit her mother in Busan but that means taking a train... Little does Seoul know; the city has been overran by the infected.
Busan has a slow start whilst introducing the central protagonists but it slowly comes into life when the train departs Seoul. As the conductor signals for the train to leave, a half-infected woman leaps onto the train and begins fitting on the floor. An attendant comes to her aid but of course, being a horror film, it was never go to end well once the helpless woman went rabid. And so begins the disease swiftly spreading through carriages as all the passengers run for the lives.
There isn’t anything out of the ordinary with Busan, but where it does find success is in the characters. The film follows a typical linear narrative of there’s a disaster, it kills many people but then there’s a resolve. What I enjoyed most about the film is the cast. Soo-an is played by an experienced, yes experienced, ten-year-old girl named Kim Su-an. She has been in multiple movies already and her acting talent really comes across. She’s cute and vulnerable but also stands for a deeper message. She is caring and innocent which at times in need, is necessary to rally everyone together. She is the glue in this film.
Another interesting character choice by the filmmaker is having a pregnant woman go through this ordeal too. It’s rare you see a person in horror films that have a disadvantage or, again, be so vulnerable. Seong-kyeong is heavily pregnant and this added dimension to the plot makes the decision making by the group even more important and makes them question their morals.
Train to Busan is a great nail-biting horror, it’s a little luke-warm in areas and could be hurried along slightly but when times of tension arrive, Sang-ho Yeon delivers. It’s not quite the full original package but when the extra dimensions are added, you get a rounded and heart-pumping zombie apocalypse film that will easily do a job of scaring you. It makes you question taking long haul trains that’s for certain!
Cineroom’s Rating: 3.5 Stars
Train to Busan last screening at the Phoenix is tomorrow – certificate 15