I know I’m probably missing out on a lot of phenomenal films, but I usually steer clear of non-english-speaking films because I find subtitles too distracting and/or annoying. There are very few examples of Asian movies I’ve decided to bite and bullet and watch, such as the original Oldboy and Ringu, Battle Royal and Audition,
all most of which I enjoyed (Audition was just too damn weird), but when everyone and their mother tout Train To Busan as the best zombie movie ever, I’m sure as hell not going to let a couple of lines of text get in the way of some good ol’ horror.
And let me tell you, I’m so glad I didn’t.
The Korean film not only gives most Hollywood flicks – even classic zombie movies – a run for their money, but also proves that you can do zombies AND character development well without leaning too heavily on the gore factor, or taking unnecessarily long detours to focus on plot arcs that derail (no pun intended) the plot. [I’m looking at you, TWD.]
Admittedly the characters are mostly cliché archetypes we’ve all seen before in horror movies: the coward, the brave one, the selfish one, the pregnant lady, the small child, the jock and his girlfriend. However, this film is definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Each character has a purpose and a distinct story arc, and the confined environment in which these arcs are developed lends itself beautifully to crafting a complete story for each of the protagonists.
The claustrophobic feel of the movie, with the majority of the plot unfolding in the confines of a bullet train, succeeds in building the tension considerably while containing the action to one location – and, unlike those godawful FTWD webisodes with the plane zombies, it’s instantly gripping and edge-of-your-seat exciting at every turn.
What’s even more genius is the re-imagining of the zombies themselves, closely resembling those of 28 Days Later, except even more terrifying: they turn in a matter of instants, they’re super fast and utterly ferocious. The fantastic zombie stampedes and train chase with the swarms of zombies were some of the most brilliant scenes I’ve ever watched in a horror flick. Add to that the wonderful performances, especially that of young Soo-An Kim, and you have a genre masterpiece that really sets the bar for the new wave of zombie-movie resurgence in pop culture.
I honestly can’t praise this movie enough. Not only is it arguably the best damn zombie movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s also the best horror flick of the year.
A definite must-see.