Reviews of Train to Busan (2016) and related work
- Prequel: Seoul Station (2016)
Train to Busan (2016)
Seen in 2018.
Seen at the first Draken zombie film festival.
A company called YS Biotech “leaks” an organism that zombifies some of the local wildlife. This spreads to people and quickly overwhelms cities all over central South Korea. The variety of zombie retains normal strength and speed, loses short-term memory function as well as all long-term memories and intelligence, and needs bright light (daylight) to see. The microorganism seems to kill in minutes from a small bite, in seconds from a larger bite. Complete conversion to zombiehood upon death is instant.
A fund manager whose company has invested strategically in YS is to take his daughter from Gwangmyeong to Busan on her birthday.
Fast-zombie apocalypse. The story turns out to be very conventional to the point of leaving a pregnant woman and a child as the last survivors of the journey, à la Titanic. Compared to the American classics, there is a greater concern for one’s fellow human in many scenes, but this does not combine with the Bub motif or any other humanization of the zombies as such: they’re only mindless monsters. Basically, the heroes force one another to be empathic and collectivist even though the premises are not, which is very nice, especially in comparison to the idiotic Snowpiercer (2013), but it isn’t very creative. It’s the opposite of how a train works: collective transportation for atomic individuals. I love the detail that the protagonist instantly falls asleep in his seat and almost misses the apocalypse: that’s East Asia right there.
The early action scenes are very good. A lot of the stunt work is excellent: the zombies thrash around with a level of energy that is hard to pull off this well in live action. I bet a lot of stuntmen were bruised and worse. There is some obvious CGI but, refreshingly, no gunfire at all. I appreciate the effort to make use of the environment, in the form of the tunnels along the way, but the premise that zombies can’t see under train lights alone is conspicuously convenient and used rather poorly. In one scene, half a dozen people crawl on baggage shelves over a zombie-controlled car, which is ridiculous. There is also a bit of corny comic relief in dialogue, and some implausible successes bare-knuckle-fighting the undead.
‣ Seoul Station (2016)
Seen in 2018.
The main characters are homeless and homeless-adjacent, one night in Seoul.
Cel-shaded 3D CGI. It does not deal with YS Biotech or the origin at all. This time there is gunfire, and the curious night-blindness of the zombies on the train does not occur. The graphics are crappy, including reusing the exact same textures and models for half the people in a crowd. There are nice details sprinkled throughout, including the ending, which takes place in a suite of model apartments and in which zombification is the salvation of the downtrodden.