Train to Busan
We've had two team-ups with the Man Corner so far. Once for Don't Kill It, which was Shane's pick and it was terrible and again for Doom, which was my pick and it was terrible. Well, we're doing it again (edit: ONCE SHANE ACTUALLY WATCHES THE MOVIE), this time with the mutually agreed upon Train to Busan, a Korean action/horror from 2016. We haven't really done foreign films here on 2Spooky, so we're breaking into uncharted territory. We'll be spoiling the heck out of this one so I recommend you go watch it first (it's on Netflix as of the time of this writing) and trust me, you'll want to see this one regardless.
Now, I know what you're probably thinking. Zombie movies have saturated the market so much for so long that there can't possibly be any more interesting takes on the genre, right? Well, for the most part I would agree with you, but Train to Busan is a rare exception. While yes, it is a zombie movie, the zombies are not the focus. Instead, this is a story about a man trying to take his daughter to visit her mom as a birthday present. What this movie does so well that most zombie movies fail at is having deep, well-developed characters that make you emotionally invested in every second of this nearly 2 hour long train ride. Setting the bulk of the movie on a train also adds an interesting dynamic because the close quarters leads to almost non-stop action and some incredibly tense scenes. I'm getting ahead of myself though, so let's bring it in and start from the top.
I must admit I am not as educated in the realm of Korean films as I probably should be, but I will go through the formalities for any of my readers who may be super into K-cinema. Train to Busan is written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho, who does not have a large filmography but what he does have seems to be a hit with critics nearly every time. Train to Busan sits with certified fresh approval rating of 96%, and his other films fair similarly. He does not have a single film that drops below a 76% approval rating, which is pretty impressive even if he only has a small handful of films to his name. Based off of Train to Busan alone, it's easy to see why his films earn high critical praise and makes me want to check out the rest of his work. He is a master of his craft, utilizing every frame to his advantage. Even in the up close and tight confines of a train car, the action never feels blurry or hard to see, and his actors (especially the zombies) make great use of every inch of space they have to work with.
Speaking of the actors, they are phenomenal. Our main cast is relatively small, with only four of them actually being super important. However, even the minor characters have time to shine and you develop an emotional connection to almost all all of them because they're all that good. There is a pair of old sisters who have a mini arc, a COO who acts as kind of a sub-villain to the movie, a young athlete and his crush who have their own arc, and so on. Our main characters are obviously the father and daughter, but also another couple who are expecting. The four of them develop the most throughout the movie, and any time one of them is in peril I found myself on the edge of my seat rooting for them, and when some of them inevitably die it was devastating. Towards the end of the movie the father ends up getting bit and the exchange between him and the daughter as he's saying goodbye is one of the hardest hitting emotional scenes I've seen in recent memory. The dad is trying to explain that she has to stay with the pregnant woman who by this point is the only other survivor and watching the little girl break down and beg him not to leave her is just the saddest thing ever. If you don't believe me just watch this clip. There are no subtitles unfortunately, but you don't need them. Just watch their faces.
Also, even though I hate child actors most of the time I thought the little girl absolutely killed it in that scene. She's got a career ahead of her if she wants it.
The other thing to note about Train to Busan is the action. Now, when most people think of action movies it's guns and explosions, right? Maybe martial arts. This movie has none of that. Instead, it's a very smash mouth style of zombie fighting and relies more on tension than it does on action. First and foremost this is a horror movie and a lot of the action involves running from zombies, but there are a few moments when the survivors go on the offensive and it's pretty fun to watch.
Train to Busan is a greatly needed and much welcomed breath of fresh air to the zombie sub-genre. Filled to the brim with great directing, great acting, and tense action throughout. You should absolutely add this to your watch list if you're a fan of anything I just mentioned, but don't let me decide for you. Watch it for yourself and let me know your thoughts down in the comments, and be sure to check out the Man Corner in the coming days (edit: MAYBE) for Shane's take on Train to Busan from the standpoint of action movies.