A thrill ride, that’s what Train to Busan is. Though Yeon Sang-ho’s first foray into live action picks up where animated feature Seoul Station left off, each film can be watched independently of one another. Perhaps it is fitting that the live action Busan is at times, cartoonish. Its characters are stereotypes (businessman/lousy father, high school girl crushing on the nicest boy in a gang of jocks, etc.), but they are well played stereotypes. Zombie flicks are often cheesy, aren’t they? So when Busan shifts its action-packed sequences and creepy body horror to an overly dramatized trope about daughter teaching dad how to act like a proper human being, it’s a bit expected.
As with most zombie-themed movies, a snicker here or there is inevitable. The tone may be somewhat serious, but the subject matter is a bit far flung to start with. Walking dead don’t exist as far as science is concerned. So this barely-believable premise is right to not take itself completely seriously. The result in Busan is a few scenes where things are unreasonable and impossible. For instance, a lightning-speed horde of undead appears out of nowhere. Zombies even fall out of the sky. A very pregnant woman runs for her life, and doesn’t go into labor in such stressful circumstances. It’s ridiculous but we somehow accept it because zombies are not real.
So, for two hours, let yourself fall for the unreal and the farcical. This is not slapstick, but there are chuckle-worthy moments. One of the best ha-ha’s in Busan is the fact that zombies are plain stupid. This makes them easier to trick than one would imagine. Humor aside, the acting is much better than we’d expect of the zombie genre. Of note, young Kim Soo-An convincingly portrays a confused and emotional child. Tight framing on those big, soulful eyes makes the viewer feel for her. The role of her dad is played by popular Korean drama hunk Gong Yoo. Now in his late 30s, the actor is handsome as an older K-idol, but he’s not just eye candy. He pulls off a brilliant scene where he sneaks away to let out his emotions. Unseen by his daughter and his zombie-fighting cohorts, cold-hearted Dad actually has feelings and they are palpable. The terror of the protagonists overall, is palpable. These zombies are freaky when they contort in a very un-human way. The zombie cast also deserves a nod for their physically demanding roles.
As the trailer might suggest, this is not so much a horror movie as it is an action flick. The film feels like one long chase scene where the ultimate goal is to reach Busan. The claustrophobic train sets contrast the outdoor sequences, where the horizon – and Busan – seems like an unattainable place.
Fantasia Screening : July 31, 11:30 AM (Hall Theatre)
For more info : http://www.fantasiafestival.com/2016/en/
Official Trailer: https://vimeo.com/173047815