Undeniably kinetic and headlong, Korean zombie movie Train to Busan has had extravagant praise from genre enthusiasts. For me, it goes down as more of a classic train movie than a zombie film.
A passenger train is leaving Seoul for the regional hub of Busan just as an unclear event is infecting the capital’s population. The passengers are mostly unaware but as the guard’s back is turned something hurtles on board the train just before the doors close. As the train pulls out along the platform the passengers start to see more bodies hurtling and charging outside the window.
The televisions on board carry the news but it’s confused and panicked. Phone signals are down – in any case, all seems calm on board.
Until that one infected passenger is unleashed from the toilets and starts his chain reaction of zombiefication – these are not the lumbering Romero zombies, but the voracious speedy beasts of WW Z and Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Soon whole carriages are turned into seething masses of zombies.
Luckily, someone works the zombies don’t know how to work the sliding doors between carriages, so they charge up against the glass but stop there, snarling.
It’s all very well choreographed and effective and gives us time to get to know a bit further the characters on the train, our players in this battle for survival. This is less interesting to me, the banker father who’s not been paying enough attention to his little daughter – a not so subtle comment on the zombie eat zombie culture of capitalism – an old woman and her sister, a college baseball team (the bats come in useful), a big brute with a pregnant wife (he’s handy for beating up zombies) and a few other guards and timid salarymen.
There are some fine sequences, one of which reminded me of Oldboy, as the zombies are pushed back along the aisle.
Thing is, I was never quite sure of the rules here, how you kill these zombies, nor what their limits were (they have to see you to charge at you, I think). So, it’s a very smoothly put together film, a great twist on the train film (murder on the oriental express, if you will) and a nice riff on the zombie movie, but nothing very original that would allow it to transcend its genres to become a classic on anything.