A Korean movie about zombies on a train takes the horror-thriller genre off the beaten track
BY ALVIN BULAONG CRUZ
Like the spread of a virus that threatens to infect the passengers on a train in the Korean apocalyptic thriller Train To Busan, the popularity of the movie itself was phenomenal, not only in Korea but in Manila as well.
Indeed, the movie has become so “viral” that as of this writing, Filipino viewers continue to flock to movie theaters, curious to know why this film has been drawing attention and making rave reviews.
The undead resurrected
For one thing, Train To Busan has redefined the horror-thriller genre in a way that gave new life to the undead – these beastly creatures we have seen so many times in countless zombie films and popular TV series.
Who could forget Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Walking Dead? Just when you think you’ve seen it all and you’ve had enough of all the gore in zombie flicks, here comes yet another of this kind not from mainstream Hollywood but from a country known for big TV dramas.
So, just what sets Train To Busan apart from other zombie movies? The answer actually lies in these major factors that spell the difference between good horror movies and great horror movies: storyline, characterization, fear factor, timing, and art direction.
And if you’ve got all these under the masterful hands of a brilliant director, a cultic masterpiece is in the making.
Although it’s a zombie movie, the story of Train To Busan does not mainly revolve around zombies. It’s the story of the other characters who have to grapple with their own personal “monsters” that gives a realistic and human dimension to the film.
A single father named Seok-woo (played with a great deal of sensitivity by popular Korean actor Gong Yoo), decides to take his daughter Suan (Kim Su-an) to Busan on her birthday to see her mother.
On the train, a series of strange events begin to unravel. In the eyes of a young girl who was raised to value kindness even in an unkind world, the danger that lurks inside the train seems less alarming than the apathy of the other passengers, including that of her own father. But as the chance for survival becomes more and more uncertain, the tie that binds father and daughter is the only thing that can save them.
Kim Su-an’s performance in the film is a revelation. She is both empathic and naïve as a young girl who is suddenly thrown into a conflict situation or crisis that brings out the best and the worst in the people around her. The movie’s final scene is her crowning glory.
Aside from the father and daughter, other characters in the film make it thrilling and at times entertaining to watch. For instance, the husband Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-Seok) is a natural comedian who charms the viewers with his witty one-liners.
There’s also the self-centered businessman whose real intention is overshadowed by his fears. Two old sisters about to be separated by the imminent tragedy, but not by destiny. All these characters face the same fate and have to make moral choices before it’s too late.
Although it’s safe to say it’s a horror film with a heart, Train To Busan is essentially a horror film. And as far as the scary scenes are concerned, the movie definitely lives up to what a horror or thriller is and should be: it scares you when you least expect it, and more importantly, it gets scarier scene after scene all the way to the end. For all its fear factor, taut storyline, and technical ingenuity, watching Train To Busan is absolutely one hell of a ride.
September 2016 Health and Lifestyle