(WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Seoul Station and Train to Busan.)
The South Korean zombies-on-a-train blockbuster #TraintoBusan is without doubt one of the best Asian films of 2016. The pulsating horror flick, which depicts a zombie outbreak on a bullet train, marks the live-action debut of #animation director Yeon Sang-ho (The King of Pigs, The Fake). Thanks to its runaway success, much attention has now turned to the maverick helmer's other #zombie feature, the animated #SeoulStation.
A smaller-scale production, Seoul Station was actually produced circa 2014/2015 and premiered at international film festivals before Train to Busan in 2016. But as the latter was understandably adjudged as better popcorn fodder by Korean film distributors, Yeon's third animated feature was only theatrically released after Train set box office registers ka-chinging around the world.
Although touted as a prequel to Train, there is no character crossover from Seoul Station into the live-action feature, and the source of the zombie outbreak in both films is actually quite different. The only similarity is that the undead action starts at the South Korean capital's central railway terminus where one can take a train to Busan. While Train functions purely as an #horror action thriller, the slower-paced Seoul Station is more of a social commentary, as Yeon uses the premise of a zombie pandemic to highlight contemporary social issues in his native country, such as glaring misogyny, homelessness and heavy-handed tactics by the local armed forces.
Seoul Station follows four protagonists over the course of a turbulent night as a mysterious outbreak unleashes amidst the homeless who seek shelter nightly in the titular subway terminus, located at the heart of the city.
Sole female protagonist Hye-sun (voiced by Shim Eun-kyung) has just escaped a brutal life as a prostitute when she discovers that her good-for-nothing boyfriend Ki-woong (Lee Jun) has been pimping her online as a means to pay the rent. Devastated, she seeks shelter at the central railway station only to be caught in the midst of the first wave of the undead uprising. Seeking refuge at a police station, she and fellow outcast (Jang Hyuk-jin) narrowly escape a zombie attack and together proceed to find a way to survive the madness erupting in the city.
Meanwhile, the cowardly Ki-woong is forced to search for Hye-sun with her estranged father (Ryoo Seung-ryong) after the latter threatened to kill him if Hye-sun is not found. As the four protagonists dash around the city, which is getting more and more chaotic by the minute, they run into yet another obstacle.
As if escaping from flesh-eating zombies isn't hard enough, they now have to face state soldiers fully armed with machine guns and water cannons, and stationed behind barricades that restrict the survivors within the Seoul Station vicinity — alongside the ravenous undead — so to contain the pandemic.
'Seoul Station': A Tale Of Social Ills
As a zombie flick, Seoul Station does not offer many new elements for audiences who are used to a diet of zombie carnage in big-budget, live-action productions the likes of 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead. Also, cartoon zombies, as gruesome as they may look, are really not quite as scary as their live-action counterparts. To director Yeon's credit, however, there are moments of gripping suspense, while the protagonist's fear of the unknown can be acutely sensed right down to a wretched finale.
As a social commentary, Seoul Station's zombies offer a unique way to present humanity issues of a modern society such as prejudices against women and the homeless, and ruthless authorities' measures.
It would be unfair to compare Seoul Station to the action-packed Train to Busan. As an animated feature, it is still a visually captivating, thought-provoking offering that complements its successful sequel. If anything, thanks to Yeon, Seoul Station offers an indication that Korean animation may one day reach the high standard of their Japanese counterparts, just as Train to Busan has proven that Asia can produce high-voltage action thrillers on par with the best of Hollywood productions.
Watch the trailer for Seoul Station here:
Do you have the urge to watch Seoul Station?
(Sources: hollywoodreporter.com, scmp.com)