Seoul Station (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

seoul“If I had a place to go… I wouldn’t have stayed at Seoul Station.”

Yeon Sang-ho’s animated prequel to the excellent zombie action film “Train to Busan” is every bit as terrifying as its successor, and occasionally much more intelligent and biting in its social commentary. While “Train to Busan” is a very emotional look at class warfare and how the society divides in the time of crisis, “Seoul Station” is a very evocative commentary on the poverty crisis in the world. This horrific zombie virus is able to thrive thanks to the massive homeless population in South Korea, and it’s confronted more than once in how the government views its homeless as animals and sub-human even before the flesh eating ghouls appear.

Set during one night in South Korea near Seoul Station, a homeless old man appears within the crowds of homeless with a bleeding neck. Sick and exhausted, he hunches down among the squatters as his friend wanders around looking for someone to even care about his plight let alone help his friend out. Seoul Station is composed of a heavy homeless population at night where the government allows them to sleep and rest in the subways due to the overcrowded shelters. Meanwhile, young Hae-Sun is desperately trying to make it home after her boyfriend begins prostituting her online.

When the homeless man reveals himself to be anything but dead from fatal neck bite, he begins attacking others, and before long the rapid fire infection begins spreading along Seoul Station like wildfire. Prompting a massive rush for safety, and fight for survival, Hae-Sun gets a first hand glimpse at the homeless lifestyle, as she flees alongside three homeless men as the rising tide of the dead begin to consume every inch of Korea. Meanwhile Hae-Sun’s ex boyfriend and dad are on the search for her, as the trio is spread apart during the massive rush. “Seoul Station” is a vicious and terrifying zombie film, picturing its zombies as vicious, rabid, flesh eating monsters where all sense of class and race is lost in a sea of an unbiased virus.

The stark animation makes the fight for survival seem like a living nightmare, where hope is scant, and people step over each other to live another day. Director Sang-ho is never afraid to tackle the idea of social inequality, and the contempt for the impoverished, envisioning a society of ugly and cruel individuals that bear little concept of the value of life. From a stand off in a jail cell involving a police officer, to an argument involving two characters that have “sacrificed” for their country and given nothing in return, “Seoul Station” is very culturally relevant, and volatile. It’s a brilliant precursor to “Train to Busan” with a much darker glimpse at humanity and a wonderful companion piece that compliments it and offers a lot more context.