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Title: Train to Busan

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:80

I’m a big fan of zombie movies. Well, at least I WAS until the genre just got saturated to the point of making me really wish for the rise of vampire and werewolf films again. I have gotten to the point where I see “The Walking Dead” (or “The Boring Dead” as I like to call it) come on and I’m running out of the room as fast I can. We had some fun movie concepts with “World War Z” and the “28 Days/Hours” later films, but I was ready for the franchise to die. However, Korea’s “Train to Busan” was getting rave reviews and has become one of THE most successful horror movies to come out of Korea ever. So naturally I was a bit intrigued and looked forward to checking it out myself. Thankfully the film lived up to all the expectations and reviews and was actually BETTER than I ever could have hoped for. “Train to Busan” takes quite a few standard genre tropes and mixes them together to create a uniquely terrifying film that had this jaded horror hound gleefully grinning from ear to ear as the movie unfolded. There’s a few flickering issues that crop up near the very end, but despite those little faux paus by the creators this was one INCREDIBLY fun zombie flick.

There’s not a WHOLE lot of plot detail for “Train to Busan”. We’re queued in to the fact that there has been some sort of chemical leak at the beginning of the film during the opening sequence and then shot right into it once we see a hit deer miraculously rise from the dead and stumble off with a sort of glazed look in its eyes. We’re then introduced to Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) and his young daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim). Seok Woo is a businessman who has very little time for his daughter except to give her platitudes and tell her that he’ll do better next time. He has a bit of a change of heart for a few moments and decides to grant his daughter’s wish to see his estranged wife (her mother) for Children’s day (a bit of a holiday in Korea). Being that his ex-wife lives in Busan, Seok Woo and Soo-an get on the express train and head on out to visit for the day. The only thing is, that strange phenomenon with the deer is going to follow them onto the train. A teenager girl who is sick with whatever chemical ailment the deer suffered from is brought on board and soon claims her first victim.

Soon after the first bite, the train starts erupting with violence. The zombie virus mutates quickly and claims victims within a matter of a minute of being bit, so the entire train is on the verge of being overrun. Seok Woo and Soo-an barely escape to the front of the train along with an expectant mother and her husband and a few other passengers. There the trapped passengers have to stay alive long enough to reach Busan and hopefully a quarantine zone as the rest of the world around them erupts into utter chaos with the zombies tearing through everything in their path.

As I said, “Train to Busan” blends several different genre tropes together to make the film. It starts out as a typical disaster film with differing groups of people getting on the train to Busan, each with their own back story and motivations. We get to care for each of them and start to learn about them and suddenly the disaster strikes. However, the film quickly changes into a horror/action flick that borders on a blend between elements of “World War Z” (the zombie “flood” and way they move and attack is very reminiscent of the Brad Pitt film for sure) and “28 Days Later”. The zombies are given a lot of prosthetic makeup and low levels of CGI to make a disturbingly creepy looking monster. Especially with the almost staccato motion that they mimic, reminding me of a body horror film as well.

“Train to Busan” IS a simple film really. There’s not a whole lot of verbal plot. People get on board the train and then people meet zombies. Easy peasy pudding and pie. What DOES make the movie more complex is the characters and their motivations. While Seok and Soo-an are two of the most important characters, director Sang-ho Yeon does a fantastic job at making each of the passengers on the train a fully fleshed out character. Husband of the pregnant woman, Sang Hwa (Dong-seok Ma of “The Good, The Bad, and the Weird”) is absolutely fantastic as the take charge layman, while Eui-sung Kim is deliciously repulsive as the sleazy businessman who will do anything he can to stay alive. Elements of the movie are very typical of the genre, but it’s the blending and re-ordering of these genre tropes that really makes “Train to Busan” completely unique. Camera angles, practical effects and the blending of body horror with zombies and a disaster just come together to make a wildly enjoyable movie that I can’t recommended enough. If I have one complaint about the film it's the final confrontation between the sleazy businesman and Seok on the train at the end. It felt a bit contrives and overly stupid for such a wildly thrilling hour and 40 minutes that came before.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4stars:
“Train to Busan’ comes to Blu-ray with a very nice looking 1.85:1 AVC encoded transfer. Shot on Arri Alexa cameras and finished with a 2K master it looks rather nice on Blu-ray, with sharp details and great colors to boot. The grading tends to look a bit green and blue in some spots (facial tones can sometimes look a bit sickly due to the green color grading, but overall, it’s not too intrusive). Fine details are well done and apparent throughout, with the practical makeup effects of the zombies blending well with the very minimal CGI used (along with the sped-up motion of the zombie charges which make the film look a lot more “classic” in some ways). Blacks are deep and inky and there’s almost no artifacting except for some really annoying banding at the very end of the movie (watch as our two survivors go into the tunnel just before Busan. The entire entryway to the tunnel is one giant mess of banding). Still it’s only a flicker or two here and there and that end shot, so the image is barely marred at all.

Audio :4.5stars:
Well Go USA is really stepping it up with these latest few films. With their first entry into Dolby Atmos with “The Monkey King 2”, “Train to Busan” is their second film with competing studio DTS with a nice DTS:X track for those of you with the equipment to take advantage of it (otherwise it has a very nice 7.1 DTS-HD MA core in Korean and a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in English). The English track is very robust and healthy, but I’m not a fan of English dubs on Asian films so I naturally gravitate to the VERY nice DTS:X track. It’s a powerhouse for sure with a great sense of immersion and intensity to it. The first part of the film is just a front heavy mix with a nice layer of background ambiance with the sounds of the train humming in the back channels and some good imaging up front. However, once the film gets going and the zombies start tearing through the passengers like tissue paper it REALLY takes off. LFE is deep and impressive with a sense of nuance and detail that makes is a force to be reckoned with. “Train to Busan” is not one of those films that just pulsates with LFE for no apparent reason, but rather uses the forceful low end judiciously and then slips into the background when not needed. Surrounds and overheads get some great use with the little tinks and creaks of the train as well as the zombies just swarming from all angles and enveloping the listening position with the sounds of terror.

Extras :1star:

• That's a Wrap
• Behind the Scenes

Overall: :4stars:

“Train to Busan” is a film that defies conventions yet hugs tightly to them at the same time. There’s a lot of familiar material within the Asian zombie film, but it manages to make something unique and completely new out of those building blocks. I have to say it is now one of my favorite zombie movies of all time with a stellar Korean cast and some intense monster munching scenes that will have everyone but the extreme gore hounds satisfied. It’s creepy, heartfelt, wildly frenetic and completely and utterly a blast from beginning to end. “Train” was one of my most anticipated films of the last six months and I’m thankful that it delivered the goods in spades. Well Go USA gives us a good video encode and a STELLAR DTS:X audio track to enjoy. My only complaint with the whole package is the very very slim extras, but don’t let that deter you from picking up one of the best zombie movies of the last 10 years.

Additional Information:

Starring: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jung
Directed by: Sang-ho Yeon
Written by: Sang-ho Yeon
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS:X (DTS-HD MA 7.1 Core), Korean DD 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 118 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 17th 2017

Recommendation: Great Watch!

More about Mike

2,072 Posts
Thanks for the review. I am also like you, all excited when this genre came out but now I am tired of it.. But, after reading this review, I will have to check this out and finish out this genre with this movie. :)

2,762 Posts
When I watched The Wailing (excellent movie by the way) I saw the trailer to Train to Busan and it caught my attention. I will definitely watch this one.
Thank you for the review.

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