If you hate zombie movies, and think there’s nothing left in the sub-genre, you’ll be surprised with Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” and what it does with big budget zombie movies. Director Yeon Sang-ho practices the tradition of George Romero’s horror movies with thick social commentary, while also tapping in to the blockbuster crowds and proves you can have one without losing the value of the other. “Train to Busan” came completely out of left field for me back in 2016, and was not only the best horror movie of the summer, but one of the best movies of the year, easily. Yeon Sang-ho explores how a massive society is destroyed by flesh eating, rabid zombies, all of whom are relentless and charge rapid fire at their victims from around corners.
Seok-Woo is a divorced fun manager and workaholic who is mostly estranged from his young daughter Su-An. For her birthday, she’s anxious to go to Busan on train to see her mother, and despite Seok-Woo’s protests, she manages to convince him to take her to train station and in to Busan for a tense meeting. Despite warnings all around then Seok-Woo and Su-An are completely oblivious to the chaos around them until a young woman rushes in to their train with a bite mark on her leg. Transforming quickly in to a rabid zombie, she begins attacking various attendants attempting to help her. Before long all hell is breaking loose on the train, prompting Seok-Woo to make it his mission to protect Su-An against all costs. And often times against his better judgment.
Stuck on the train with working-class husband Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong, a high school baseball team, a wealthy CEO Yon-suk, elderly sisters In-gil and Jon-gil, and a homeless man, they have to figure out how to make it out alive. Meanwhile the population within the train begins splitting loyalties, and classes. “Train to Busan” begins on a low note and completely ratchets up its inherent terror minute by minute, as Yeon Sang-ho builds up to what is essentially about a humongous speeding train filled with people struggling to survive this zombie invasion. One seemingly small incident changes the city of Korea, and it just mounts in to an endless series of catastrophes and heartbreaking glimpses in to human cruelty and class warfare.
What’s more is that Yeon Sang-ho allows his characters to grow and evolve, exploring their back stories and personalities without ever grinding the movie to screeching halt. “Train to Busan” packs in a lot of heart and zombie action, and even creates a ton of moments destined to become some of the most iconic of contemporary horror, from a trip through an escalator, the final scene of the film, and a battle that ensues in a train cart between survivors and zombies. “Train to Busan” is a masterpiece, and manages to successfully tap in to a narrative that will appeal to just about everyone. Whether you love zombie movies, action horror, disaster blockbusters, movies about family, and or movies with social commentary, this deserves to be seen.
The DVD features the original audio track with subtitles and an English audio track for audiences that (sigh…) don’t want to read subtitles. There’s the original trailer for “Train to Busan,” and a Behind the Scenes segment clocking in at thirteen minutes which includes various footage of key scenes being shot. Finally, “That’s a Wrap!” is a Candid look at the end of the film’s shoot, which clocks in at four and a half minutes.