What to Watch: 2016's Train to Busan
What do you get when you mix World War Z, Walking Dead, and 30 Days of Night all in a South Korean film? You get Yeon Sang- Ho's 2016 zombie epic Train to Busan. The film centers around divorced workaholic father Seok-Woo (Gong-Yoo), who lives with his mother and young daughter Su-an ( Kim Su-an) in Korea. Seok -Woo is barely spending time with his daughter because he is obsessed with work. When his daughter asks to see her mother in Busan for her birthday, he complies with her wishes, and the duo gets ready for their trip from Seoul to Busan, Korea.
All seems reasonable as they drive to the train station until the unusual number of emergency vehicles passes them into Seoul, along with a burning building on fire in the distance. You would think this would alarm the characters, but they carry onto the train station. Once they reach the station, both meet a cast of characters from two elderly sisters, a businessman and his pregnant wife, and a baseball team full of teenagers among other passengers. As we see, this scene introduces the major players we will see later in the film.
As the train begins to take off, one passenger who seems in distress comes aboard. This passenger seems sickly and in great pain as she tries to reach the train toilets. As the distressed passenger walks to the bathrooms sweating profusely she passes out and shakes in convulsions. One of the train attendants tends to her as she calls for medical help on the train. We soon discover this sickly passenger has been infected and turns into a zombie. She bites the attendant and the virus begins to spread. As the movie progresses, half the train becomes infected except the few passengers whom Seok-Woo met earlier as he boards the train. Seok -Woo, his daughter, and a few passengers fight for their lives as they run from one train car to another, escaping the zombies in the previous cars behind them.
I love this film because of the situational nature the survivors find themselves in with this zombie outbreak! I have not seen a zombie film presented in this context before. Imagine being trapped on a moving train running from car to car trying to escape a zombie horde! You may think here goes another zombie movie. But there is something about international horror films that takes a typical zombie film to another level, in my opinion. One particularly striking scene is an older woman witnessing her sister's attacked from this zombie horde. She begins to see the shell of her sister in this monstrous form trapped in the next car with the other zombies. As everyone else is trying to keep the zombies trapped in the train car to figure out the next move, she has had enough and beings to open the car releasing the horde on her and the others. I found this scene tragically symbolic. Symbolic because of the situation in the scene and tragic because, well, its a horde of zombies being released.
I was happy to hear that there will be a sequel to this film called "Peninsula." According to Collider.com, the sequel takes place four years after the events from the previous film. Solider Jung-Seok leads a group of fellow soldiers on a search and rescue mission to find more survivors from the attack. As they search for survivors, the soldiers encounter a second wave of the zombie horde, and the cycle continues. Filmmaker Yeon Sang-Ho expands on his zombie series with elaborate set pieces, special effects, more sinister zombies, and insane action sequences. Due to the COVID- 19 apocalyptic world we live in now, the original July release date may be pushed back. In the meantime, enjoy these trailers from both films. Train to Busan is currently streaming on Netflix.