This film has all the tropes you would come to expect from a modern zombie movie. It has an unexpected, and largely unexplained, outbreak early on, it has an enclosed space as it’s main location which results in many survival complications, it has a group of strangers as it’s protagonists who have their differences but must come together for survival, the list goes on. So with all these cliches in place then why does this standout as one of the best zombie films we have seen in years???
The answer, in my opinion, is that this is a film driven by human relationships and it just so happens to have zombies in it. By the time the carnage commences on the titular train, and it does commence in a big bad way, we have met a Father who has thrown everything he has into his career. He is a successful fund manager and he provides for his mother and young daughter by giving them everything they need except his time. We have met his precocious daughter who is a sensitive soul and as a result of her Father’s absence has nothing but time for others. We have also met a couple who are expecting their first child. The expecting father, who is a mountain of a man and a proud and protective figure, watches over his wife like a hawk and she both welcomes his protection and is perturbed by the sheer extent of it. We have also met a high school baseball team, about 10 strong, and specifically spent time with one batsman who has the affection of the team’s cheerleader only he is embarrassed by her public displays and struggles to show her how he feels in a way that respects her and gets his team off his back. We also meet a couple of sisters who are late in life and are still wonderfully close despite a complicated upbringing and many particular hardships along the way. We also have met a multitude of train attendants, drivers and conductors, all with their own backstory and motivations, and I believe at this stage you can see my point. These are not carbon copy characters and I genuinely cared and hoped for their survival.
As great as the character development is, I mustn’t forget to talk about the actual zombie side of things. This is top level stuff! The zombies are fast, jittery, unpredictable and actually scary! The makeup artists and motion actors do a superb job and some of the movements these zombies make are incredible! More than a few times I found myself thinking “That must have hurt so much!!!”. Another thing to mention is how high-end the visual effects are. There are some truly stunning set pieces along this 2 hour train journey and they are all breathtaking. Whether it is huge waves of zombies crashing through sheets of glass or explosions lifting train carriages into the air in slow motion with people flying around inside, everything looks immaculate!
I have thus far neglected to mention that this is a Korean film directed by Sang-ho Yeon, who I have not been familiar with until now. He has also directed an animated zombie film last year entitled “Seoul Station” which is getting a lot of praise as well so he will certainly be on my radar from now on. This film is released in UK cinemas October 27th and I heartily recommend you see it on the big screen if possible. You won’t regret it!
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