Thursday, 1 September 2016

Frightfest Closing Film - Train to Busan

Train to Busan was a runaway success in it's native country of Korea where it smashed Box Office records. The film is released in October (in the UK), but I was lucky enough to see this at Frightfest and it's quite clear that they saved the very best to last.

The cause of the outbreak is a flimsy one, but its suspected that a gas leak caused multiple riots in various Korean cities but the country wide chaos isn't the focus of the film. Train to Busan focuses its attention on the passengers of the train traveling to Busan from the capital, Seoul, where one of the infected manages to find its way on the train and begin spreading the virus. On this train is a father (Gong Yoo) and his daughter, Soo-an (a magnificent Kim Su-an), traveling to Busan so that Soo-an can be with her mother on her birthday

Whilst Train to Busan is not a zombie movie in the traditional sense (it's really not worth getting into the technicalities of what makes a zombie movie a zombie movie) it has the elements that makes the great zombie films of George A. Romero great and that's thematic depth. Yeon Sang-ho's film has been described as Dawn of the Dead/28 Days Later meets Snowpiercer, links to Snowpiercer are quite clear as both films are set aboard a train and discuss similar themes such as division among the social classes.

One of the main critiques labelled at Korean society in the film is the apparent selfishness, particularity among the middle and upper classes. In the film, the majority of upper/middles class characters are mainly looking out for themselves (the cartoonishly evil businessman for example), even Gong Yoo's Seok-woo begins the film caring only for himself and his daughter, despite his daughter protestations that he should help others. On the other hand, the more brutish, working class type Sang-hwa is willing to risk his own life to help others.

Train to Busan may not be a gory as the likes of the latter George A. Romero films and Zach Synder's remake of Dawn of the Dead but it makes up for it in other departments. The clever set pieces envisioned by director Yeon Sang-ho are filled with almost unbearable levels of tension and the seemingly never ending horde of zombies that keep piling on top each other is an unnerving sight to see. Whilst their jittery and jarring movements aren't greatly original (the closest zombie representations are in World War Z or 28 Days/Weeks Later) the film is packed with fantastic and tense set pieces and characters you generally care about, something lacking from a majority of zombie films.

The moving father-daughter relationship is what gives the film the high volume of sentimentality, poignancy and heart ensuring that this Korean Zombie film is easily one the finest zombie films ever made. It's moving, funny, tense and exciting, it may lack the gore of the goriest of zombie movies but despite that is perhaps one the finest of the genre.


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