- by Jeff Beck
Train to Busan: A Tense and Thrilling Zombie Outing (Blu-ray)
I’ve mentioned before how it’s nearly impossible to do anything original in the horror genre anymore thanks to there being practically nothing that hasn’t already been done before. However, when you break it down into a subgenre like zombie flicks, it becomes even harder to come up with something fresh for an audience to sink their teeth into. We’ve already seen the flesh-eaters done multiple ways, including a series of excellent films from the great George A. Romero (it’s best to stop after “Land of the Dead”), a not-so-successful attempt to serialize a zombie drama for television with “The Walking Dead,” and even a classic “zom-com” entitled “Shaun of the Dead” from director/co-writer Edgar Wright. Basically the one slightly different thing that can be done with them anymore is to shift the location of the zombies and survivors around to different places, hence Yeon Sang-ho’s new film “Train to Busan,” where you can probably guess exactly what the setup is going to be based on the title alone.
A workaholic fund manager (Gong Yoo) finally relents to his young daughter’s one birthday wish by taking her to see her mother in the city of Busan. However, what should have been a normal, hour-long train ride quickly turns horrific when an infected passenger begins attacking those on board. This spreads the mysterious disease to many others, turning them into ravenous zombies, and forcing everyone to flee for their lives to the back of the moving train. With the infection spreading all over the country, causing mass panic in its wake, those aboard the train must figure out the best course of action that will take them to safety, while carefully avoiding the creatures that now occupy much of their transport.
As far as your typical zombie movies go, “Train to Busan” is an engaging, tense, and often thrilling experience that, while it may not take the subgenre in any new directions, still offers up a worthwhile experience for those that can’t get enough of the undead. That being said, it’s not what you would really call a “great” entry to the crowded collection of zombie flicks. There are plenty of lulls in this tale of desperate survival aboard a train filled with people who are lost as to how to deal with this sudden situation, lulls that show how the film didn’t really need to be stretched out to a two-hour runtime.
However, when “Train to Busan” gets it right, it really gets it right. There’s little time spent on the setup, but it’s more than enough to establish our main characters and to make that all-important emotional connection with them. After all, we’re going to be following them throughout the insanity of the zombie outbreak and rooting for them the entire time, so the importance of establishing that link simply cannot be understated. It may sound a little silly to be discussing such a thing when it comes to a film about the undead running around and trying to eat people, but for true fans, it can make all the difference.
When it comes to the film’s action sequences, they’re surprisingly well-shot. I say “surprisingly because the difficulty of containing some of the action on board a crowded train was no doubt a somewhat daunting task, but it’s handled skillfully by the cinematographer (Lee Hyong-deok) and editor (Yang Jin-mo). Typically I’m not a fan of the “running zombies” (I’ve said it before, but rigor mortis doesn’t exactly turn you into an Olympic sprinter, hence why the “shambling” zombies are more accurate), but they do manage to provide a number of thrills here that includes an insane stopover that the train makes in their efforts to find safety, as well as the climactic sequence in Busan.
“Train to Busan” may not have much to add to the pantheon of zombie cinema, but it’s still a rather entertaining entry to it nonetheless. Yeon Sang-ho has crafted an exciting film with intriguing characters that have you hanging on until the emotional end, and all of this is despite the over-extended runtime. Granted, I don’t think anyone’s going to be stacking it up against Romero’s masterful classics, but as a fun little zombie offering, it’s a fine little film that fans will get a kick out of.
“Train to Busan” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The picture is remarkably clear and sharp throughout the entire two-hour runtime, which does a fine job of highlighting the film’s various effects, as well as the gorgeous South Korean countryside. The 5.1 HD Stereo Surround Sound is equally fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, score, and sound effects in outstanding quality. Overall, the film has been given marvelous treatment, giving zombie fans a top-notch experience in the process.
Behind the Scenes (13 Minutes): A fascinating collection of behind the scenes footage that shows the film being shot.
That’s a Wrap (5 Minutes): A brief look at the cast and crew as shooting on the film wraps.
Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” may not take the zombie subgenre in any new directions, but it still manages to deliver an engaging, tense, and often thrilling experience that fans are sure to get a kick out of. One of the main issues holding it back from greatness are the multiple lulls found throughout the film, which is directly correlated to its overlong two-hour runtime. However, thanks to the intriguing characters and exciting storyline, we’re left with a fun little zombie offering that packs a fair amount of entertainment.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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