A zombie virus sweeps South Korea as passengers ride a train to the city of Busan. When an infected passenger boards the train, those on-board are forced into a fight for survival as they try to make it to Busan alive.
Train to Busan is a zombie fan’s dream. It is perfect; an action-horror masterpiece that brims with excitement, adrenaline and unstoppable momentum. It rarely gives you time to breathe as it propels you into the middle of an unthinkable, simple situation: you’re stuck on a train with a hoard of zombies, what do you do? There’s nowhere to run and there’s nowhere to hide. You’re fast, but they’re faster. You want to live, but they want to survive. It’s a brilliant concept that explodes with potential and Train to Busan absolutely bloody nails it. If you want non-stop mayhem, then you’ve boarded the right train, because this is one hell of a ride that you won’t want to alight from.
Train to Busan is a rarity. As soon as it started I knew I was going to love it. The set-up is simple and familiar, one that you’ll recognise from a thousand films from around the world. A father struggles with the relationship with his young daughter, spending most of his day at work and leaving minimal time to spend with her. She wants to see her mum in Busan, but he doesn’t have the time to take her. It’s her birthday and he buys her a Nintendo Wii, but she already has one. He’s a disaster and their relationship is on the brink of collapse. What better way to fix that is there than by facing the ultimate challenge: a train full of zombies? The pair are thrust together as they face the very likely possibility of their deaths, realising the importance of their relationship. In this time of catastrophic crisis Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) is finally able to fulfil his fatherly role and protect his daughter Soo-an no matter what. It’s better late than never and as with horror films like The Shining, Insidious, Oculus, Saw and others argue in their fictional realities; fathers tend to be pretty terrible, but can occasionally step up at the last possible minute and prove their worth. It’s an obvious and, honestly, overly sentimental theme at times, but Train to Busan’s beating heart can’t be missed below its undead skin. The film’s balance between heart-racing horror and heart-stopping familial drama can only be seen positively, because it makes for an enjoyably contrasting feature that pulls your heart strings in every direction. Like yin and yang, the sentimental and the scary mesh together in perfect harmony, crafting a beautifully horrible rail road of frightful delights.
The delights continue for the film’s supposedly long run time of almost two hours, but by the time it ends you’ll realise that you could rather easily watch another two hours. It’s an infectiously entertaining thrill ride and the most intense time you’ll spend at the cinema with Train to Busan’s relentless and unbelievable escalation of events keeping you hooked from the opening to the closing minute. It’s all (mostly) set on a train, but the claustrophobic setting does not limit the film and does the complete opposite by giving it a simplicity that many zombie films are without. Many try to be bigger, bolder and bloodier by taking the events around the world, showing us news reels from Europe, Asia and the USA to emphasise how wide the infection has spread, so there is something overwhelming and refreshing in Train to Busan’s decision to scale down the setting, but escalate the energy and spectacle by confining it to mainly one space. The shock is in its variety of different displays captivating set-pieces that feature zombies running, chasing, smashing windows, eating people’s arms and looking generally freaking terrifying as they create as much mayhem and mischief as they can manage.
The film proves that zombie flicks are far from dead as a grotesquely wonderful hoard of the infected are thrown left, right and centre. Just when you think the film has hit its peak it will surprise again and again with an array of unabashed spectacle that makes every Hollywood action flick pale in comparison. Even 28 Days Later’s terrifying infected look placid when compared to these body-contorting and truly monstrous undead, where a heap of applause must go to the actors and the work carried out in post-production. A lot of the scenes feature A LOT of zombies and, obviously, some are CGI, but you’ll easily be fooled into thinking they’re all actors thanks to the Train to Busan’s relentless pace and sheer scale. You’ll be covering your eyes one minute and gaping at the screen the next. Train to Busan truly delivers some astounding moments, using the contrasting shifts between darkness and light with tunnels to deliver heart-stopping scenes of tension. The high-octane soundtrack mirrors the film’s predominantly fast pace is soon replaced with heart-pounding silence; it’s a film that is unpredictable and marvellous at keeping its audience on its toes.
I could rant and rave about how awesome Train to Busan is until the cows come home, but I won’t bore you any longer. Mark my words, that this will be one of your favourite cinematic experiences if you give it the chance, because Train to Busan is the best zombie film of all-time and I’m not afraid to say it. I can’t wait to watch it again and again and again….
Words: Jessy Williams (@JessyCritical)
Train To Busan is in UK cinemas on October, 28th.