All aboard for a modern-horror masterpiece
By Jay Hunter – After a quick set-up involving a reanimated deer and a fractured father-daughter storyline, Train to Busan hits like a locomotive for a inexorable 188 minute ride. A fable of class insurrection and principled propagation, writer-director Yeon Sang-ho manages to deliver a movie not dissimilar from 2011’s The Raid. Both taking place inside a confined space, equally unpretentious yet undoubtedly flawless, Train to Busan is this years best horror movie.
South Korea’s discontent with their current economic climate and corruption is an evident motivation for Train as it’s nihilistic vibe surges throughout it’s basic premise. As a zombie-outbreak unfolds on a high-speed train, many characters are separated into different train coaches depending on their social standing, we focus heavily on father, Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) as he looks to reunite Soo-an (Soo-an Kim) with her mother.
Like many disaster movies, the audience is teased before the main body of the attack takes place, we see clouded news reports of riots throughout Korea and glimpses of turbulence on the platform as the KTX vacates the station. Whilst the passengers on board fuss over a homeless man hiding out in the train restroom, an infected teenage girl manages to dive through the trains closing doors, causing ruination to unfold.
Taking a leaf from Danny Boyle’s book, the undead on show in Busan are rabid, rapid and relentless. Once bitten, victims twist and contort in a matter of seconds, before reawakening and looking to feast. In a year where much of the spotlight has been on Captain America: Civil War’s ‘airport battle’, Busan manages to supersede it’s comic-book rival with an unparalleled action scene established within an overrun train station. Additionally a new concept, in which the monsters are unable to see in the dark, houses intense set piece sequences at the half way point in the movie.
One of the reasons Busan works so well, is that the characters feel human. Unlike Hollywood counterparts, Seok Woo is concerned with the self preservation of him and his daughter, and less perturbed with the well being of others. It’s a refreshing stance painting him as flawed man instead of a messianic superhero. Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok) and his pregnant wife Sung-kyu (Jung Yu-mi) take many of the plaudits for Busan, providing comic-relief and heart simultaneously. If the movie has a villain, it comes in the form of Sang Hwa (Dong-seok Ma) and not the living dead. A selfish and corporate weasel who’s gob gutlessness will have your shouting at the screen so violently right up until the nail-bitting finale.
Lee Hyung-deok provides stunning cinematography throughout, giving almost guerrilla movement in it’s confined spaces, whilst not shorting out on more artistic compositions. As Train leave’s it’s horror origins for more action-packed pastures in it’s final third, industrial inputs are blue-chip, with headlong editing by Yang Jin-mo, who raises insecurities to insufferable heights. The score from Jang Young-gyu and sound by Choi Tae-young both compliment each other in their paucity and potency creating bona fide consternation instead of deceitful impact.