August 12, 2016

Train to Busan: Zombies on Track

People are brain-dead. People might as well be dead for all the meaning their lives have. We can never escape the dead. So many meanings behind zombies in pop culture, right? Yet in a weird way, they're all related in that they all have to do with personal responsibility. If we're brain dead, who's fault is it? If our lives have no meaning, who could best change that? If we're haunted by our pasts, how do we reconcile ourselves to them? Thrillingly, Yeon Sang-ho's Train to Busann addresses those big questions repeatedly instead of just serving us up the ravenous zombie, an image that frankly had started to decay.

What's changed isn't the zombies. Nope. They're still bloodthirsty, dangerous, infectious, crazed, and in this case, fast. It's the humans. In this very well-constructed, multi-layered script, Yeon has assembled a nice cadre of survivors: a ruthless investor (Gong Yoo), his sweet-natured daughter (Kim Soo-an), a big-hearted lug (Ma Dong-seok), his pregnant wife (Jeong Yu-mi), a shy baseball player (Choi Woo-sik), his girlfriend (Sohee) and a homeless guy (Choi Gwi-ha). You'll notice that all the women are defined by the men. A problem, agreed, but they're at least not completely helpless. Just watch that pregnant woman run!

And as the chemically-induced disease (caused by man's greed, what else?) spreads across South Korea (I'm guessing the North is safe), this small group (on a speeding commuter train out of Seoul) must fight with their paranoid peers (especially one deplorable businessman) as well as against the hungry hordes in order to survive. The rabidity of these zombies is something to behold, whether they're literally exploding through windows or racing up escalators, jumping on train cars or grasping on to the caboose (and then grasping on to the guy grasping on to the caboose, and then grasping on to the guy who's grasping on to the guy, etc.). The last time I saw a Korean horror movie this exquisite was Bong Joon-ho's The Host. Yes, Train to Busan is that good!

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