ByJay Hunter, writer at
“Academia is the death of cinema. It is the very opposite of passion. Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.” - Werner Herzog
Jay Hunter

(WARNING: Spoilers for Train to Busan below. You've been warned.)

We're all too aware of the Hollywood horror monotony by now. For every nerve-shredding Don't Breathe film we reap a legion of rehashed parables based around how premarital sex, drugs and alcohol will get you mercilessly decapitated by a sexually oppressed momma's boy. So as you close your curtains this Halloween, hiding from 9-year-old kids demanding candy in return for not besieging your house with eggs, take a leave from your own personal horror movie of repaying your student loans and check out Train to Busan.

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 year's best horror flick.

South Korea’s discontent with their current economic climate and corruption is an evident motivation for Train, as its nihilistic vibe surges throughout its 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.

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. While the passengers on board fuss over a homeless man hiding out in the train restroom, an infected teenage girl manages to dive through the train's 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 its comic book rival with an unparalleled action scene established within an overrun train station.

One of the reasons Busan works so well is that the characters feel human. Unlike Hollywood counterparts, Seok Woo is concerned with his daughter and their safety, 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 (Ma Dong-seok) and not the living dead. A selfish and corporate weasel whose gutlessness will have you 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 its confined spaces, while not shorting out on more artistic compositions. As Train leaves its horror origins for more action-packed pastures in its 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.

So, among the litany of '80s slashers you will undoubtably be marathoning this Halloween season, give some Korean new blood a try. Hollywood may just pay attention (or cash in with a Western remake).

Check out the trailer for Train to Busan below:

What did you think of Train to Busan?

[Source: Jump Scare]


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