Train to Busan
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho
Written by Park Joo-suk
Starring Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an, Ma Dong-seok
Sometimes, enclosed spaces make for the scariest moments, which is why so many horror films are set in hotel rooms, warehouses, or caves. This time, we're going by train, to check out the movie that represents this sixth-highest-grossing film of all time in South Korea, Train to Busan. Part zombie movie, part action film, and all, well...awesome.
Train to Busan follows Seok-woo, a fund manager who hasn't exactly been there for his family. Sufficiently so that he's a divorced fund manager, in fact. Now a single father of his daughter Su-an, Su-an has given her father one birthday wish: to visit Mom in Busan. Seok-woo would rather not, being as Busan's quite a haul and he's got work, but he changes his mind and thus the pair are off on the titular train. Things are obviously starting to go wrong, however, on the way to the train itself, and by the time the pair board, it's clear that the world is not what it was just the day before.
It's hard to pass up the idea of a zombie movie that's one part Dawn of the Dead and one part Snowpiercer, but that's kind of what we've got going here. A downright explosive combination if ever there was one, it remains to be seen if the Koreans can pull this one off. While I haven't had much exposure to Korean horror lately, I remember Korean horror being very much focused on ghosts as opposed to zombies.
I love how this starts out. This is perhaps one of the most innocuous openings ever, until it suddenly turns into something much worse. Then it goes quiet for a while, until it plain old explodes. This is a lovely bit of mood whiplash that contributes to the experience. It takes a bit longer than perhaps it should to build up to the actual horror, but to their credit, when it goes, it goes all at once like a string of firecrackers into a volcano. There are even some thrilling twists here; you won't believe what one old lady's going to do here, but man, it's worth seeing. It's like nothing I've seen anywhere else.
While I'm not exactly fond of the track star zombie--which these are abundantly; the bites turn from human to flesheater in seconds--I love how the camerawork almost makes this look like a Mindless Self Indulgence video. That combination of head-on jerky camerawork and what I'm guessing is a fisheye lense adds to the surreality of it. The moving train, going from infected site to infected site, only adds to the terror as the passengers are jumped--ultimately futilely, but jumped nonetheless--as the cars speed through.
The ending is a string of sorrow mixed in with Aloha Oe. You'll understand what that means when you see this movie. Which you should. Oh my sainted hat, you should.
Special features include trailers for "Train to Busan," "Operation Mekong," "The Tunnel," "Phantasm: Remastered," "The Wailing," as well a behind the scenes featurette, your choice of Korean or English audio tracks, and English subtitles.
All in all, "Train to Busan" is an exciting combination of zombie movie and occasional drama compressed to an ultra-small package. This is fun yet powerful stuff, and easily one of the better interpretations of zombie movie to come out in recent years.