FANTASIA Review: TRAIN TO BUSAN
When we think of a zombie apocalypse we conjure up images of cities burning and mass hysteria. “The Walking Dead” has shown us the desolate landscape of Alexandria overrun by zombies whereas films such as WORLD WAR Z depict the horror of a zombie apocalypse on a global scale. Films and television shows surrounding zombies have reached a frenzied height of popularity so it’s no surprise that Korean director Sang-ho Yeon decided to make his version of a zombie apocalypse for his latest film TRAIN TO BUSAN. However, what sets this film apart from the hundreds, if not thousands, of zombie movies out there is not only how good of a movie it is, but how the focus of the zombie attacks take place on a train.
TRAIN TO BUSAN centers on a group of passengers traveling from Seoul to Busan when a zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea. The main protagonist is Seok Woo (Yoo Wong), a self-involved workaholic who is begrudgingly bringing his daughter Soo-an (Kim Soo-ahn) back to his ex-wife in Busan. It’s not that Seok doesn’t care about his daughter, it’s apparent that he loves her, he just isn’t a present father as his main focus is on his work and anything having to do outside of that is a bother. As he and Soo-an are on their way to the train station, they notice a barrage of fire trucks pass them. Thinking it odd, but figuring it was nothing to worry about, they continue on to the train station and we are left viewing the last bit of calm before the proverbial storm.
What makes this film stand above the rest in its genre is it combines some of the best zombie performances I have ever seen along with some amazing camera work and a story that goes deeper than just the superficial “zombie apocalypse” layer. First and foremost, 80% of the action takes place on a train. To be able to do as much as they did in such a small space was remarkable and inventive. When it came to the look of the zombies I was incredibly blown away with the special effect makeup and the movements of these undead. These aren’t the zombies from George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD that shamble along in a slow fashion, these zombies are fast and ferocious. What really impressed me was the actors abilities to bend and snap their bodies in some of the most unnatural ways I’ve ever seen which led to the zombies having an even more frightening appearance. I also liked that director Sang-ho Yeon gave these undead a weakness (other than shooting/stabbing/decapitating their head). It was a unique approach to see these zombies have their own Achilles heel so-to-speak.
Other than the performances from the zombies, the main characters are what gave this film heart. Yoo Wong’s character is the one that we see the most growth from as he goes from a self centered and selfish individual to one who realizes that in order to survive he must work with everyone as a team. I enjoyed watching his transformation especially because my feelings for him and his survival changed from beginning to end. We were also graced with outstanding performances from Dong-seok Ma (Sang Hwa), Yu-mi Jeong (Sung Gyeong), and Woo-sik Choi who rounded out the cast and brought each of their own stories to the table. For a zombie/horror/action flick, I have to say, the gore is quite minimal and a lot more tame that I expected. I’m not sure if TRAIN TO BUSAN is catering to a mass appeal in Korea so in doing so they tamed the gore down but regardless I think that it added to the film. There is plenty of blood and some epic fight scenes with the zombies but I have to say it was refreshing not to see buckets of gore all over the place. Even without intestines flying in our faces, the film was still able to be impactful and horrifying because sometimes when your mind is left to fill in the blanks it can come up with some pretty imaginative if not frightening scenarios. The only critique that I had of the film was the 118 minute runtime. There really isn’t any reason why a zombie film should be almost 2 hours long and some might argue that’s because of character development but honestly, the film could have been shaved down by a half hour. The length of the movie made some scenes feel like they were dragging and a few times I noticed myself zoning out; however it didn’t do much to deter me from enjoying all the action and horror.
All in all, TRAIN TO BUSAN, is one of the best zombie horror films I’ve seen of all time and I firmly believe it will cement itself as one of the best horror films of the last decade. If you are looking for a zombie flick that’s fast paced with amazing visuals, superb acting, grotesque zombies, and an ending that’s both satisfying and heartbreaking than make sure to check out TRAIN TO BUSAN.