Fantasia Film Festival 2016 Movie Review: Sang-ho Yeon's Zombie Masterpiece TRAIN TO BUSAN

Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the action/horror movie TRAIN TO BUSAN by writer/director Sang-ho Yeon.  To be explain the story, I will turn to IMDB for my plot description:

While a zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.

A sound of sirens in the distance is muffled by the train readying for departure.  The passengers chatter while stowing their luggage and finding their seats.  Two more guests sneak onto the train when the platform attendant checks his watch.  The news warns of riots as the doors to the train are closed.  A violent mob runs at the vessel as it pulls out of the station.  The passengers watch the receding platform in horror as man turns against man.  As the train reaches full speed, the only reminder of what they just saw are the bloody handprints left upon the glass.  Each basks in the knowledge of their own safety, until one of the stowaways starts to rabidly attack those around her.  What was once their fortress against the outside has now become their prison.  

Let me set the scene a bit by saying, I was not feeling well and headed to bed when I found out that I was being given the privilege to see this film.  Thinking through my schedule for the week, it became clear that I would not have much time to write a review unless I watched it right away. I decided to watch as far as I could that first night and then finish it out the following evening. 

Then I pushed play.

To say that this one held my attention would be an understatement as, even in my exhausted state, this perked me right up.  It functioned as an adrenaline shot to the zombie genre as it simultaneously included all of the traditional tropes while spinning it as a high octane action/thriller.  I had no trouble staying awake for the entire feature and even felt jazzed up as the credits started rolling. 

So, what is it that made me like this picture so much?

The sense of tension that kicks in after the first twenty or so minutes is well maintained throughout the rest of the film.  This ends up translating to nearly an hour and a half of straight action/suspense/horror with wave upon wave of zombies not to mention just as dangerous fellow survivors.  The action scenes are incredibly well paced whether it be something as simple as trying to get a door locked to keep the undead at bay or the much more intricate fiery train of doom.  No matter the size or scope of the proceedings, there was a tension throughout brought on by the fact that even the smallest of missteps could bring down a literal wave of the undead on our lead characters. 

The roles each of the actors play is the one area where this feature falls a bit short as nearly all of the characters are genre tropes.  We have the pregnant woman, her protective husband, the young couple in love, the man who is only out for himself, and the father who learns a life lesson all peppering our cast.  The only reason this does not get annoying is that during the course of the plot, the movie slows down every so often to give each of these roles a true character moment.  The fact that the actors all nail each of these beats keeps this from feeling cliche and allows for some genuinely poignant moments. 

Given the onslaught of overdramatic zombie fare recently, I feel I have to point out that this picture proves to be a lot of fun.  Not only do we have some crazy kinetic sequences, we are also treated to a good amount of comedy.  The melding of humor while still keeping the danger element in play was incredibly well handled as, even if we were laughing, the encroaching undead horde was still just as imposing.  This is one of the few recent examples of a film that kept the fear factor of the zombies alive while still being able to mine the characters or ridiculous action scenes for humor. 

All in all, I have seen more zombies put to film than most people have probably ever heard of and this ranks in at least my top ten (possibly top five) favorites of all time.  The blending of humor, action, heart, and horror was so seamless that one never overshadowed the other or felt out of place.  This is such a solid entry that I recommend fans of good movies go check this out now.  No, seriously, right now; stop reading this and go. 

Nighty Nightmares,
The Creeping Craig