Thursday, November 03, 2016

Train to Busan – first class South Korean rabid transport thriller (QFT 4-10 Nov)

On her birthday, the daughter of an estranged couple begs her father to take her to see her Mum in Busan, South Korea’s second largest city. Disturbances across the city are visible out the window of the KTX101 bullet train as it readies to depart. Just before the doors close, someone staggers on board, bloodied and fitting on the floor of the vestibule between carriages.

Train to Busan could merely have been a horror/zombie film about a group of characters unable to escape the growing rabid presence on board their speeding metal tube. The placatory tannoy announcements and political messaging speak to real life reactions to the South Korean experience of managing the Mers virus outbreak in 2015.

While little Su-an (played by Kim Su-an) wants to help people, her father Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) – described as a “blood sucking” fund manager behind his back – advises her: “You don’t have to be good. At a time like this you only have to look after yourself.” Spread out over the carriages are many of the different human reactions to threat: those who are selfish, ruthless, altruistic, panic, and those who seek to protect others.

The jerky choreography of the zombies is stylised and consistent throughout the movie. The stunts are eye catching, particularly when hundreds of bodies fall in unison through windows. The ‘chase’ sequence up from carriage 9 to 13 is a welcome relief and varies the pace and stress levels until you realise that director Yeon Sang-ho has no notion of stopping the film before packing in yet more twists and turns (and an epic human brake) to torment his audience with.

There’s not much room for humour in this two hour film that tightens your chest like someone wringing out a wet towel. Having seen Green Room, and Under the Shadow frankly I’m more and more convinced that I should file horror and zombie films alongside my hatred for roller coasters. Think I’ll stick to the milder 28 Weeks Later or The Survivalist.

Train to Busan is a first class intercity bloodfest that is speeding its way through Queen’s Film Theatre between Friday 4 and Thursday 10 November. I recommend you get the bus home rather than the train!

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