‘Train to Busan’ (2016) Review

“Life or Death Survival Begins”

Train to Busan is an action-packed zombie/infection thriller that follows a self-centered dad and his daughter who join a motley crew of passengers on a train from Seoul to Busan as they try to survive a hellish outbreak of infected zombie-like horde. South Korea knows how to do horror, thriller, and drama extremely well and Train to Busan is easily one of its best as it hurls along at breakneck speed.

We begin with hints at the breakout and potential issues that would plague the passengers on the train, but we settle in with meeting self-centered workaholic (Seok-woo) and his strained relationship with his young daughter (Soo-an) where he gives her a present that he had previously given on an earlier holiday.  Realizing this disappointment, he decides to give her what she wants and that’s a trip to her mother’s who lives just a short hour train trip in Busan. A father trying to fix a dead relationship with his daughter…I’m sure there is some fancy literary term to describe this that I should use but instead I’ll just say it’s a great theme to have in a zombie movie.

As the duo arrives at the train, we meet most of the crew that will be trying to survive together shortly. The director does a wonderful job of introducing us to the rest of the cast, giving us glimpses at an elderly pair of sisters, the conductor, a husband (Sang-Hwa, who is easily the most likable and my favorite) and his pregnant wife, a high school baseball team, along with an dbag businessman (future Seok-Woo possibly?). As the passengers begin to settle in, we see a strange woman who is clearly not well board the train. In no time, she is attacking a crew member by ripping out his throat and we witness him instantly transform into one of the infected just to attack the next living thing close to him. Just like that, all hell breaks loose from the back toward the front (I’m sure that means something as well) in a matter of seconds as the train rolls on.

The direction and the cinematography here is excellent and the use of the day time is refreshing. Director, Sang-ho Yeon, not only shoots these attacks with a frenetic pace but also creates a claustrophobic environment by shooting up close as if you were just a quiet survivor along for the ride. These aren’t your Romero or Walking Dead zombies either. They are the pit bull ravenous type from 28 Days Later. Combine those zombies with the confined spaces of the train cars and it will have you squirming in your seat. The next thing Yeon does is get you to feel one way or the other for these characters and creates drama to go along with the terror. The Father and daughter dynamic, the noble husband trying to do the right thing while protecting his pregnant wife, the teenagers just living life to the obnoxious businessman out for himself. In a short time, we are made to feel for each of these characters up until the final moment of the film. One of my favorite elements of this film is the fact that some of the characters were smart enough to wrap up the forearms as they battled these monsters. It’s a minor detail that makes so much sense when done and have you rolling your eyes at movies who don’t use this tool.

I highly recommend Train to Busan if you are looking for something different in the horror genre and can handle reading subtitles (believe me that this is an easy one if you are not a fan of subtitles). It hits you in all the feels from shock to drama to anger to sympathy etc. It is streaming on Netflix now if you want to check it out. Let me know if you have seen and what you think.

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Author: Vincent Kane

I hate things.