Monday, January 23, 2017

Gangnam Style of The Dead, or Thoughts on Train to Busan

 Train to Busan (2016, 부산행), an efficient, innovative and clever South Korean zombie outbreak movie from Director Yeong Sang-Ho starts with an intensely impressive reanimation of some road kill.  We’re talking Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)-level CGI graphics for an undead dear (dearly undead?), a quiet start that you know will build over the next 108 minutes of this fast-paced, very effective film.
After this impressive start and a quick montage of the inevitable government cover-up as they try to control and spin the outbreak, the movie slows down to establish some central characters.  Gong Yoo portrays overworked yuppie single dad Seok-Woo while 10-year-old Kim Su-an shines as his daughter Soo-an.  They take the titular train to Busan to see the mother, one infected sneaks aboard, you can guess what happens next.
 We have seen this scenario before, over and over, but to my knowledge this is the first zombie on a train movie.  Werewolves on a train, sure.  And then there’s the confusing and enigmatic dystopian Snowpiercer (2013).  But a train is linear, very well suited to the narrative structure of the film, a controlled environment, and fighting from car to car, left to right in scenes reminiscent of Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy (2003) and The Raid: Redemption (2011) help to create a very organic action horror movie.
These are bitey/twisty zombies, with more of a 28 Days Later-rage virus/bio-horror aspect that also swarm like the infected in World War Z (2013, the book is SO MUCH better).  And speaking of so much better, Train to Busan is head and shoulders above Fear the Walking Dead and the Rick and Daryl (I do miss Shane) misery-palooza. 

There’s a refreshing optimism to this zombie movie that you don’t see in American movies, and a very different sensibility than Hong Kong or J-horror.  Koreans seem so polite and cooperative, at least in this movie, there’s a group mentality to the culture that’s far more suitable to surviving a zombie outbreak.  The movie has an impressive 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and is easily the best modern zombie movie since 28 Days Later (2002).

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).