04 October 2018

31 Days of Horror: Train to Busan

October 3

Train to Busan (2016)

Where Japan is great at making horror films, South Korea's forte lies in action thrillers. Having first entered the realm of South Korean cinema via Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, I quickly became hooked on the genre. Most of the items on my Netflix watchlist are South Korean films, and while I'll try not to only review foreign films this month, I'm sure there will be a few more.

While the zombie genre has been horribly overdone at this point, I was eager to see South Korea's take on the living dead. Often, what kills the zombie tale is the over-explanation of how things happened and the focus on blood and guts; Train to Busan offers no explanation for the outbreak, which is initially referred to as riots, and instead focuses on the survival aspect of the situation. Oftentimes, human nature is more disturbing than any monster or virus.

Train to Busan follows divorced fund manager Saek-woo and his daughter Su-an, whose relationship has become strained due to Saek-woo's long nights at work and absenteeism from his daughter's life. All Su-an wants for her birthday is to see her mother, so they head out to Busan. On the train, they meet working-class husband Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong, the egotistical COO Yong-suk, elderly sisters In-gil and Jon-gil, members of a high school baseball team and their cheerleader, and a homeless man suffering from PTSD. With so many unique characters, it's impressive that the film manages to devote enough time to giving each of them ample screen time and just enough character development that one can empathize with their individual struggles - or root for them to perish. The film slowly becomes a sort of social commentary on class warfare, with the rich trying to shun the working-class or those they claim to be infected. When the world goes to hell, it's every man for himself.

Train to Busan will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to heartbreaking end - but it's a refreshing zombie film that's definitely worth checking out if you understand Korean or don't mind subtitles.

No comments:

Post a Comment