I (Heart) Zombies

Train to Busan is one zombie movie with heart, and that’s not on the undead menu

Hold on to your hats everybody, because we got us here another zombie movie. I think this is something like the 5,732nd zombie movie or TV thing to come out in the last three years or so.

Wait ... hold on ... before I keep on with the cynical sarcasm thing, something must be acknowledged: Train to Busan is really good!

This is a South Korean zombie movie that actually gets you invested in its non-zombie or soon-to-be zombie characters. And the last couple of scenes actually pack enough of an emotional wallop to make the slightly weaker viewers cry a bit. Not me though. I didn't cry. I swear. I was too preoccupied thinking about football, girls and cars that go fast and things to cry. I didn't cry. No, really.

A selfish broker guy (Yoo Gong) is screwing up life good with his family. It's his little girl's birthday, and Soo-an (Soo-an Kim), after getting a duplicate gift from an uncaring dad, wants to see her mother (his ex). Dad decides to take his kid on a train and get her some mommy time.

He gets on that train, which is full of your typical characters in a disaster film. There's the macho father-to-be (the ever reliable Dong-seok Ma) and his predictably pregnant wife (Yu-mi Jeong). There's an assortment of selfish bastards, nice grandmas and even a boys baseball team (who thankfully bring their bats as carry-ons).

Also on that train is a wounded passenger. That wounded passenger has all of the telltale signs of a soon-to-be zombie person. She's got the veins turning black. She's got the eyes turning white. She's in bad shape. She's going to be twitching and biting soon.

That lone passenger spreads her disease fast, to the point where there's something akin to a Zombie-Nado inside the train. Passengers are dispatched, joining the zombie pack and causing blood to spray. For those of you who like their zombie gore, the film, while R-rated and violent, doesn't have Walking Dead type eating scenes. You see some bloody faces, but no zombies chomping on severed arms or large intestines.

There are basically two kinds of zombies these days. You have the lumbering, shuffling ones found in Romero films and The Walking Dead, and those sped up rabid Danny Boyle zombies. These zombies are more like Danny Boyle zombies, with a touch of World War Z zombie thrown in for good measure. They are like the Brad Pitt zombies when it comes to them piling up on top of each other to achieve a goal, much like ants. They are not like Brad Pitt zombies in that blood actually does spurt when they bite somebody (Damn that stupid PG-13 rating).

I think this is the first zombie movie where a freshly bitten, soon-to-be zombie person picks up an actual zombie and uses it as a battering ram against a horde of other zombies. Director Sang-ho Yeon knows how to be unique in well worn territories. Much to his credit, he ramps up the action early and keeps tension levels high, even when that action stops down for dramatics.

Most of the action takes place on the train, which gives the film that strange claustrophobic yet speedy vibe. Good chunks of the film are spent inside train bathrooms, or with heroic characters doing their best to keep sliding doors closed.

Yeon also wrote the film, and his script does a nice job of supplying surprising deaths along the way. Nobody is safe in this picture, including the kids. Also, thankfully, nobody in this movie has shitty Walking Dead fake southern accents. I swear to God, I had to stop watching that show due to Rick's phony drawl.

Train to Busan is a rarity in that it's a zombie movie with a heart, and a zombie movie that doesn't feel like other zombie movies. Horror mavens get to it, because it's a good one.

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