'Train to Busan'-A South Korean Zombie Masterpiece

Updated on August 19, 2018
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Asian horror is becoming on trend. I am a big fan and find the cultural accents a breath of fresh air. I will recommend some for you.

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Why Is This Movie So Special?

Prior to seeing Train to Busan (South Korean), I watched I am A Hero (Japanese), which was based on a comic book. I loved it so much that I decided to give this one a watch too. This movie has knocked my socks off just as much as the other one.

There is something very special about foreign films. They can put together a horror-themed sequence with all the action and special effects of a blockbuster film. This one is reminiscent of World War Z (2013) but they left behind the guts and gore. If you like the idea of zombie films but have never watched one due to the violence and stiff story lines combined with empty heroes with nothing special about them—then perhaps watch either of these two movies and give the genre a second chance. You won't regret it.

Yon-guk (played by Choi Woo-Shik) a rich man trying to get home any way he can.
Yon-guk (played by Choi Woo-Shik) a rich man trying to get home any way he can. | Source

What's It About?

Seok-Woo is a fund manager and dad to Soo-An who is staying with him after a marital split. It's his daughter's birthday and all she wants is to go home to Busan. She wants her mother after having spent the entire week without him while he worked.

Feeling guilty they set out together on foot. While boarding the train, we see a woman with a bandage on her leg slip past ticket collectors.

The bandaged woman starts having convulsions and is discovered by a train attendant — is she having some kind of medical emergency or is something more sinister going on?

Train to Busan Official Trailer (2016)

Quick Film Info

Title: Train to Busan.

Director: Yeon Sang-Ho.

Writer: Park Joo-Suk.

Date of Release: July 2016, South Korea.

Genre: Apocalyptic/action/thriller.

Box Office: $99 Million with over 11 million people seeing it in theatres.

The tough-guy Sang-hwa - the working class man and anti-hero was my favourite character in this film. He wears a button up jacket nearly the whole way through.
The tough-guy Sang-hwa - the working class man and anti-hero was my favourite character in this film. He wears a button up jacket nearly the whole way through. | Source

My Thoughts on the Film

In opening scenes' a deer peels itself off the road revealing zombie's eyes. A spectacular way to start a film. The director Yeon Sang-ho certainly know how to use restraint to create a lasting effect. A slow burn beginning enabled the film to pick up pace over a series of events and gained traction beautifully.

"Fund manager" is used a lot in this movie and I loved it every time Sang-Hwa berated Seok (dad) with it. As if his job title encompasses his whole personality as somehow vampiric. All Soo-An, his daughter, understands is that her father is never there for her. He always puts his needs before others and his quest on the train to Busan turns into a narrative about human kindness. It's also about what it takes to be a hero.

The World War Z Connection

It's this type of moral infused story that is usually missing from the movies that I watch. Some often revolve around getting from A to B like in 'World War Z' and '28 Weeks Later' (2007). The spotlight is usually focused on how big the explosion can be. How much blood and guts can be splattered by a chomping, biting zombie of the course of the film, but not here.

Here the focus is on the plot and the zombie apocalypse is an enjoyable background noise. The film is centered around being on the train, and the train station to get home. While there are a few fight scenes within the film, there is certainly no reliance on bloodshed and gore to create tension and action.

Small societal difference stands out— like a carriage full of baseball players who mucking around prior to the chaos. Two boys are having a tickle fight. It highlights the difference in how society is shown on screen compared to westernized ones like the USA and Australia. You would never see two strapping young lads tickling each other. You might see them jokingly punching each other but definitely not having a tickle fight. The characters are still typecast. The jocks, the aged, the macho man with his wife, and the rich selfish guy. I guess no matter where you live, you can't escape that.

Special effects used in this movie were heavily influenced by 'World War Z' (2013.) Zombies climbing the wall using bodies upon bodies to climb over themselves. They explode out of narrow passageways in the same manner and mimic those scenes. It didn't bother me one bit that they used it because I loved it before and I loved it here.

You don't need a precarious hand over your eye to hide from the gore. Movies like Dead Snow (2007) set on a white background to show off just how much blood and guts there is. In Train to Busan, there simply isn't much to see. Sure there is blood spatter but it's just not shown to any extreme.

Final Thoughts

Zombies' weakness is used against them. The group discovers a way to remedy issues of avoiding the horde. Instead of smashing them all to smithereens or causing mass brain hemorrhages in its full glory most of the mess is discretely out of shot. Hair and camera angles are used when the zombies chow down on human flesh. Cameras are then refocused on the transformation from human to zombie.

The moralistic storytelling is so refreshing, seeing a whole scene where Soo-An shows compassion and courtesy to an aged woman by giving up her seat to highlight her father's inability to appreciate kind gestures goes a long way to stick together the bonding required to get the two closer as the movie goes on

This movie caused me to shed a tear and no other zombie movie has ever done that.

The sequel's in production. The virus further will spread over a bigger area of the country instead of localized like we see in this one. I will definitely be watching it.

I give Train to Busan 4.5 random homeless men out of 5.

This movie has been confirmed for a remake in English.

Are you excited?

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Chaos on the train and the virus is let loose.
Chaos on the train and the virus is let loose. | Source

The Cast

  • I really enjoyed the token tough guy in this with his comical and snide comments towards the protagonist Seok and researched his name to see if he was, in fact, someone who may have been typecast for example, like Arnold Schwarzenegger being typically found in movies where his muscles are needed and was astonished to find he is quite the international star having roles in films like 'Never Ending Story' (2012), 'Dancing Queen' and 'The Neighbor' (2012) with also a role in 'Sense8' Series (2015.)
  • Since starring in Train to Busan Gong Yoo (fund manager) has had his fame sent rocketing as this film is the biggest grossing film made in Korea. He has since made a second blockbuster called 'The Age of Shadows' (2017) which has had similar success.

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