It might sound like hyperbole, but Train To Busan is the best zombie movie since Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. The South Korean horror sees a father (Gong Yoo) and daughter (Kin Su-an) struggling to get to Busan by train in the middle of a zombie outbreak. It’s thrilling, visceral and very, very watchable.
At this stage, there’s little that can be done with the zombie movie that hasn’t been seen before. Since Danny Boyle re-energised the genre back in 2002, dozens of zombie movies have been churned out. Some of them have been great and some of them have been simply terrible but almost every potential plot point has been attempted: comedy, romance, drama, action, period. Then there’s the television ratings behemoth that is The Walking Dead, which has been shuffling across television screens for the last seven years. However, that doesn’t mean a good zombie movie can’t be made today. It just needs to be true to what it wants to be.
Director Yeon Sang-ho’s film doesn’t try to do anything other than tell a simple tale: zombie outbreak on a train. This is a stripped down horror and Sang-ho keeps things moving at a hectic pace, not spending time on anything superfluous. The film’s central train concept propels the plot forward, helping keep the kinetic thrills fresh, even when it’s just zombie attack after zombie attack.
The plot might be simple, but Train To Busan features some solid characterisation. Gong Yoo’s busy businessman turned protective father has a good character arc throughout the film. Meanwhile, Ma Dong-seok is excellent as the burly passenger who, along with his pregnant wife (Jun Yu-mi), teams up with the father and daughter to flee their fellow flesh-eating commuters.
You’d think that the zombie genre has nothing left to offer, but Train To Busan manages to surpass expectations. It’s an entertaining horror-thriller and the key to it’s success is the simplicity of the tale. It’s more of a thriller than a horror, but it manages to pack in enough blood to make sure gore-hounds get their gory fix.