Film, Reviews

‘Train to Busan’ is an Express Trip to Zombie Pandemonium

The South Korean horror film, in limited theatrical release now, packs its morality tale with frenetic violence

train to busan review


Truly great zombie movies only come around once in a while. In 2016, we’ve got one in the form of South Korean horror-actioner Train to Busan. Writer/director Sang-ho Yeon brings perverse laughs and riveting action set pieces to his tale of a train travelers defending themselves against a quickly spreading zombie outbreak. It’s fast-paced, clever, and packed to the caboose with flailing, squealing infected passengers.

Train to Busan centers around a father and daughter who embark on a train journey during a strained period in their relationship. We’ve seen this story before: self-centered dad has some lessons to learn that only his child can teach him. But first, everyone’s besieged by zombies.

The film’s wry humor and over-the-top action sequences bear the influence of zombie pioneers George Romero and Sam Raimi, both of whom knew the potency of a perverse laugh. But where Romero concerned himself with social commentary in films like 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, Train to Busan opts instead for a morality tale about the virtue of altruism. At various junctures throughout the film, characters face a recurring dilemma: do I help my neighbor or save myself? The choice to put one’s own survival above the safety of others is personified in the film’s self-absorbed villain.

The infected burst out of windows and doorways in sprawling masses – or in squirming towers of undead similar to those in World War Z. Unlike the Brad Pitt film, Train to Busan boasts thoughtful, effective character development; the train’s passengers, who range widely in age and social status, are memorably and cleverly delineated. We get to know the jocks, the elderly, and the expecting parents as they fight for territory on the speeding train – a setting that the film exploits at every chance it gets. The audience hollered in delight during a fight scene which turns the classic ‘running to catch the train’ trope on its head.

The film is roughly two hours long – but its rich characterization and relentless action will make the ride go by in the blink of an eye. Train to Busan is in limited theatrical release now. Watch the trailer below.

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