January 8, 2017

Review: Train to Busan (2016)

"Train to Awesomeness."

Think Snakes on a Plane (minus Sam Jackson) with shades of Snowpiercer (trapped on a speeding train plus the whole class war thing); the "strangers band together to survive in a world suddenly gone mad" aesthetic of the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake; the frenetic, rabid infected intensity of World War Z; and some acrobatic craziness like only the films that populate the world of Asian Cinema can offer, and that's basically what Train to Busan is.

That's not to say that it isn't it's own film, or that it borrows too heavily from the aforementioned efforts to be its own thing, but it played like an amalgamation of those movies, amongst others, and it bears noting.
Seok Woo is a workaholic fund manager and a great provider for his daughter, Soo-an, but he's not the best dad, because he's always working and doesn't spend much time with his baby girl. For her birthday, Su-an wants her dad to take her to Busan (by train) to see her mom, because she's a kid, and she wants some attention from at least one of her parents. So, desperate to make her happy, even if it means being without her, Seok Woo takes them on... The Train to Busan!

Aboard the train are a colorful cast of characters: a tough guy and his pregnant wife; a hot K-Pop star pretending to be a naughty schoolgirl; a stereotypical old business tycoon who thinks commoners are beneath him; two old sisters who you just know are going to die; a crazy homeless guy who looks like the dude from Snowpiercer; and a woman with a wound on her leg, who turns into to a zombie, and infects almost everyone else, thus turning them into ravenous zombies too.

Everyone else who isn't infected, which is only a small band of folk, have to come together to survive the long training trip to Busan, because the train can't stop, because the world outside has gone to zombie shit too. Can Seok-Woo get his daughter to Busan, and to safety? Will Sang-Hwa prove to be the biggest badass in S.Korea? Will we be left feeling sad and dejected at how everything turns out for everyone? Maybe, yes, and sadly, yes.

If nothing else, S.Korean movies tend to be sentimental, action-packed, and a bit out there, which is usually the reason that so many of them end up being so good. Train to Busan is all of those things, all while being one of the most intense and exciting infected flicks that we've seen in years.

For a movie that is so claustrophobic in its setting, Train to Busan is full of big action. Director Sang-ho Yeon uses the cramped quarters of his train setting to maximum effect, giving we the audience plenty of fights, chases, and narrow escapes to keep us on the edge of our seats. And blood. There's plenty of that, too.

As exciting as the movie is, it's made all the more harrowing thanks to a cast of realistic and well thought out characters who are played by some very likable actors. Sang-Hwa was easily one of our favorite characters of any movie that we saw in 2016, and he's a perfect example of why we loved this movie so much.

I'm usually a huge sucker for emotional subplots and beats in movies, even if they are heavy-handed, but some of the ones in this movie were even too sappy and forced for me.

I understand that most Horror movies are going to be downbeat, and most of their endings are anything but happy, but for the love of God the fates of most of the characters in this one were huge bummers. Seriously.

It's a S.Korean zombie flick, so yeah, there's plenty of typical bloody zombie action throughout this one.

Not that kind of movie at all.

When Sang-Hwa strapped up and had a street brawl with a car-full of infected zombies. Good stuff.

Train to Busan does the infected/zombie thing about as well as any movie since the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, and that's saying something. It's intense, heartfelt, crazy, and one of the best movies that 2016 had to offer.

See it when you can.


Train to Busan is available now on VOD.


Sohee is apparently a huge pop star in S.Korea. We can see why.


  1. i remembered suggesting this. you should watch the handmaiden as well. different kind of thriller but visually stunning as well.

  2. You finally did a "Best" section again after so long.... :)

    So I'm sure that I have already put this comment elsewhere on your blog, becuase I watched this one months ago, but this is the right place for it now anyway.

    I just need to say that this movie is what WWZ should have been. However they created the Z effects in mass here should be studied because it was done with perfection.
    I personally thought WWZ zombies looked SO cheap and cartoony, like 'Legend'.
    And the rest of the movie was perfection as well. Koreans know their shit for sure. I wish they would be more horror movies like this, I mean horror that mimics traditional ones. The Asian 'J' horror type has been done to death. But this movie shows me that these guys can handle anything. They could have made the Godzilla remake and it it would have been magnificent. Just look at movies like 'The Host', which was fucking brilliant.

  3. Not sure how I felt about this. Sometimes it was wicked easy to kill the zombies and hold them back and sometimes not. Like that guy simply wrapped his forarms and that was enough.......hmm

  4. I wish you had caught the connect to the Korean War. The North Koreans overwhelmed all opposing South Koreans units very quickly. Within a matter of weeks there was just a small pocket of South Korean and US Forces near the port city of Pusan (today called Busan). This became known as the Pusan Perimeter. The forces entrenched there held off the North Koreans long enough for reinforcements to arrive. This movie was an allegory for the Korean War and Busan as the last line of defense against overwhelming forces.

    1. Dude, I think you're seriously reaching...

      If this was what you say, then parts of the storyline would mimic the actual events you suggested. Like the fact that there was never going to be any reinforcements. In the movie, the survivors had to get out all on their own, nobody was coming to save the day.

      But also is irrelevant. This is a movie made by Koreans, not America.
      Koreans know that the War was nothing more than a profiteering exercise for the industrial military complex, which is exactly what Roosevelt warned would happen to our country. But he died and Truman basically fucked us right in the ass. The little man afraid of his own shadow, trying to get back at the kids who bullied him and mother who told him that he looked like a girl.

      American killed most of the Koreans with bombs and napalm.

      I seriously doubt that the director or the writer of this excellent film had any of the on their minds...

    2. And BTW, I know that Eisenhower was I office during Korea, but Truman is the one that set up the whole mess of the cold war.

    3. Love your review and nodded as I read. You're dead on the money (pun intended).
      This movie kicked ass and shat all over the disappointing WWZ, which had the worst zombies.
      Train to Busan is a kick-ass movie I won't forget any time soon...
      P.S I only found out about this movie when Stephen King Tweeted how good it was. Go figure.

  5. This was a really great horror movie and I wish from the bottom of my heart that Hollywood is NOT going to do a remake because they can. Yeah, Hollywood can make movies bigger and better looking but all the flaws of the original movies will be bloated, too. Usually, remakes don't install newer and better ideas to increase the value of the plot. Proof me wrong, if you can.

  6. Please do review for "I am Hero", an awesome zombie flick from japan. Surely won't be disappointing!