There hasn’t been any successful Asian horror-thriller lately until Train to Busan arrived.
Train to Busan follows Seok-Woo, a busy fund manager who barely has time for his daughter Su-an and let alone his divorce. After a stressful day at work and accidentally bought Su-an the same birthday present he did last year, Su-an reveals that she wants to visit her mother in Busan. Seok-woo is initially reluctant due to work, but his mother convinces him otherwise by showing him a video of Su-an singing Aloha ‘Oe at a school recital which he couldn’t attend due to work. Out of guilt, Seok-woo books the next KTX train bound for Busan the next morning and the rest is yet to unfold as the unfortunate train ride to Busan went to be overboard with fright and terror. They board the train, which is also occupied by the tough working-class husband Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong, a high school baseball team, rich but selfish CEO Yon-suk, and a pair of elderly sisters, In-gil and Jon-gil, and a homeless man who seems to be aware of the zombie situation.
The movie is like an illegitimate sequel to Brad Pitt’s World War Z only to have more emotions and characterizations. In fact, it’s like a chopseuy of horror-thriller movies with a toss of I Am Legend, Snakes on a Plane and The Mist— in a very good way.
Being made by Korea, it doesn’t shy-away from the usual melodramatic sequences to which KDoramas (Korean dramas) are popular of. Sacrifice is a major plot in the movie or maybe what drives most. An example of which is when In-gil, still shocked and silent from seeing her sister die needlessly, notices Jong-gil’s face in the crowd of zombies in the door window. As she tells her infected sister that she lived a long and fulfilling life, and realizes that the compartment group’s actions have led to her sister’s death. Out of anger and defeat, In-gil opens the door, allowing the zombies to flood the safe compartment. The survivors inside the hallway can only watch as the group is eaten inside the compartment — they see shadows of the passengers desperately clawing at the door they just barricaded in a cruel twist of events. Imagine that being accompanied by violins and a Korean singer belting out while in slow-mo.
Supporting characters are great with their own tricks. Yon-suk reminds us of Mrs. Carmody in The Mist which instills fear inside the train. It is the kind of villain that each time their presence appear you wanted to throw something at him. But the biggest surprise stand-out are Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong. They light-up every scene in the midst of an impending doom yet give heart to the situation.
The plot is seemingly steady to gradual build-up with some jerks from time to time. There are occasional shocks and surprises but enough to sustain the intensity of the film.
Overall, it is a very good horror-thriller, even at par with those of World War Z and The Walking Dead, only Asian. Best seen in groups so you don’t have to be shy screaming along the crowd.
Rating: 4 out of 5 zombie heads.