Train to Busan (2016)
Train to Busan (2016)

Genre: Horror and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

Release Date: July 22nd, 2016 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Sang-ho Yeon Actors: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Su-an Kim, Eui-sung Kim, Woo-sik Choi, Ahn So-hee, Myung-sin Park

 


 

A

tiny leak in the Biotech District has caused a government quarantine zone to form at the Jinyang Reservoir, restricting movement and upsetting local residents. The issue becomes more severe, however, when the chemical spill creates a notable side effect in the wildlife: they’re able to recover and re-animate, even after suffering normally life-threatening injuries. Essentially, it turns formerly living things into zombies.

Meanwhile, Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) is having difficulties at work, managing funds (a typical bloodsucker career), and struggling to spend enough time with his young daughter, Su-an (Su-an Kim), who bugs him about visiting her mother. Seok-woo and his wife have been separated for some time, unable to sort out their differences. Early the next morning, he agrees to take his daughter to Busan, where her mother Seong-kyeong now resides, by way of the KTX 101 train. It’s only about an hour-long journey, so it’s just a minor inconvenience.

What could have been a standard familial drama transforms into something entirely different when, at the last second, a bloodied teenager sprints onboard the departing vessel. Although there was foreshadowing from the quarantine zone and some suspicious roadkill at the start, once the first zombie attack occurs, the speed of the film escalates to a striking extreme. Victims are attacked, chewed on, partially devoured, and then come back to life themselves. “Hurry! Everyone run!”

“People are going rabid!” In this modern, graphic, gruesome, action-packed version of a zombie invasion, the antagonists are twitchy, strong, and incredibly fast. It certainly keeps the suspense high when the killers are so skilled at hunting their prey. With plenty of uncertainty, the use of a child as one of the main characters (as well as a pregnant woman (Seong-kyeong [Yu-mi Jung], accompanied by doting husband Sang-hwa [Dong-seok Ma], who turns into quite the warrior when necessary), few explanations, abandoned buildings, and a tendency for zombies to appear out of nowhere, this is positively an edge-of-your-seat film.

Although it’s predominantly horror, many of the concepts double as opportunities to comment on the government’s inability to handle widespread predicaments – such as a rapidly spreading contagion, or a pandemic. Protocols are unknown or ignored, and fear reigns supreme. Yet there’s also the potential for compassion in the face of panic and generosity to counter selfish survivalism, which are reflected in Su-an’s innocence and concern for others (and her willingness to abandon self-preservation to aid strangers) and in notes on the sacrifices parents make for their children (some more misguided than others). Here, teamwork is essential.

Of course, people can also use trying circumstances to exhibit their baser sides, which this film doesn’t shy away from (further commenting on the seemingly inherent evils of wealthy, privileged, corporate types – to an aggravatingly successful degree). Like in most horror films, humans can be just as abominable as the supernatural enemies, especially when mob mentalities infect rational individuals. But the heroism, the stunts, the action, the harrowing scenarios, and the relentless zombie violence are likely to be the most memorable elements.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10