With the turmoil that passengers are put through by South Eastern rail staff it’s ironic that this week’s new release, ‘Train to Bussan’ is beset by zombies. Dead eyed & soul less, shuffling along and with no aim in their lives apart from causing maximum disruption whilst the other are the fictional undead characters in the South Korean film Train to Busan. It’s something of a rarity in that the only thing you expect to come out of South Korea is nuclear bombs raining down on its totalitarian neighbour North Korea and its pot bellied buffoon dictator Kim Il Jung (cue Team America song, ‘I’m so rone-ry’!).
Rarer still is that this is not some obscure art house film about existential angst of a rice farmer and his goat but a balls-to-the-wall commercial zombie horror film. It’s one of those solo location scripts so beloved by low budget studios and here the setting is a bullet train. Opening with a sequence that features road kill that comes back to life it sets the up the premise of a mysterious virus that is systematically wiping out the population. In time honoured tradition it sets up the passengers of the train with the expected stereotypes, the father & child, the untrustworthy business man, the husband and his pregnant wife, the college sports team etc and all seems fine until an infected girl manages to get on board just as the train leaves the station effectively trapping them all onboard. Let the carnage commence and it wastes no time in getting down to business as the passengers are quickly infected and spazz out in their quest to get their teeth into the passengers of the remaining carriages.
Director Sang-Ho Yeon Wo has also written the film and his previous films have been animated features but here turns his hand to horror to huge effect. This very much ignores the Romero shambolic shuffling zombies for Zak Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead zippy sprinter zombies and there are some terrific sequences with the undead hurling themselves forward in terrifying style in an especially notable train station scene where they practically rain down on the struggling survivors . It’ll come as no surprise that this is one of those films where you guess who’s going to survive which is all part of the fun with these type of films and ultimately many of the characters are stereotypes or metaphors especially the unscrupulous banker who is determined to survive at any cost which seems to be the directors indictment of the world of bankers. Despite being the classic monster this is far more in the thriller vein than the all out blood letting of Romero’s zombie films and has some decent set pieces within the confines of the train and with the customary manner of despatching zombies (a bullet to the head) being unavailable to them it’s the sports team’s baseball bats that are the weapon du jeur .
Like a cross between the recent ‘World War Z’ and ‘Runaway Train’ there are some occasionally emotional moments none more so than a scene towards the end which parents especially may find unbearably upsetting but for the most part this is a pacy enough for the first two acts but does go on a little too long by the end. Some will be wary of seeing this purely because it’s a subtitled foreign language film but this is far better than many others in the genre.
Here’s the trailer: