The South Korean movie scene is on the map now, mainly thanks to the recent Oscar success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. The genre-bending thriller has sparked audiences to flock to other recent offerings from the East Asian country. One title that stands out and already had fame before the release of Parasite is Train to Busan. Yeon Sang-ho’s 2016 zombie thrill ride is not one to be missed, and it could be considered essential viewing for fans of the undead genre.
Zombie Epic is a Korean Masterpiece
Train to Busan is famous for breaking a Korean record for having over 10 million theatergoers. It also became the highest-grossing Korean movie in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Aside from the incredible response from audiences, it was held in high esteem by critics. It has positive reviews from 94 percent of 116 critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with an overall score of 7.6/10. This is quite impressive for a zombie film.
The general consensus is that Train to Busan is an exceptionally strong offering in the genre, with non-stop, high octane excitement. On top of that, it has been lauded for its emotional core and its allusions to class warfare. This helps to give the film multiple layers that can be picked apart over numerous viewings. The English filmmaker and Shaun of the Dead director, Edgar Wright, said it was the “best zombie film I’ve seen in forever.”
The main thrill of Train to Busan is the decision to go with fast-moving zombies similar to those seen in World War Z. The ability of these undead hordes to rapidly feast on and instantly turn swathes of people helps to add to the urgency of the whole film. The fact that the characters spend most of the time on a fast-moving train acts as the perfect analogical reference to how fast they’re spreading.
Zombie Genre is Thriving
Some may say that the zombie genre has been overdone, and the market is saturated. Others could argue that the sheer amount of zombie-based entertainment shows that people are hungry for even more. Either way, Train to Busan attracted a high number of viewers, many of whom will have been aware of all the other zombie content out there.
Zombies have permeated almost every subsector of the entertainment industry. They have been most prevalent in films, with offerings like Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Night of the Living Dead from George Romero being among a long list of classics in the genre. Some of the most common ways to experience zombie action now are through slots like Lost Vegas and Zombie Hoard, which can be found across many online casinos. These titles give players a sense of extreme thrills, typical of the genre. Other mobile offerings that provide a similar level of excitement are the Plants vs. Zombies games from PopCap Games. These puzzlers have proved so popular that the studio has gone on to make numerous sequels and spinoffs.
Zombies have also been all over the television screen for generations. Until recently, there were more than four well-known zombie series all running simultaneously. These were The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, Z Nation, and the CW comedy-drama, iZombie. The latter two have finished now, but other series have quickly shot up in their place. For example, there is now another option in the Walking Dead franchise entitled The Walking Dead: World Beyond. These diverse offerings show that there is a vast amount that can be done with the genre.
Potential for More Sequels
Thanks to the success of Train to Busan, there has already been one loose sequel. This was the 2020 release, Peninsula, which saw a group of survivors return to a zombie-ravaged South Korea four years after the initial outbreak. The premise that it was only the East Asian country that was affected by the virus suggests that there is potential for many more offerings in the Train to Busan “universe.”
*Spoiler Alert*: At the end of Peninsula, a horde of zombies managed to overcome the inhabitants of a ship. This could be used as a way to introduce the virus to other countries in future sequels. However, because Peninsula didn’t garner such great reviews, Sang-ho may decide to end the franchise there and focus on other projects.
Train to Busan is most certainly going to appeal to fans of zombie films, and it may one day be considered to be up there with the best. The sequel didn’t quite live up to the high standards of the first, but there is potential for other stories within the universe that Sang-ho created. Offerings like this are great news for the Korean movie industry, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years.