Train to Busan (2016)
Life or death survival begins
Zombie movies, right? Well, this one has been hyped by some people for some time, and I finally got around to seeing if it was all it was cracked up to be. See, I love it when a person I watch - because I have a decent number of movie reviewers on the old YouTube watch list - tells me a good movie to go check out. It's not always that I disagree with something they say so completely that it's a Paranormal Activity situation. That in mind, even though zombie movies have been feeling a little stale, let's check out this one that's been on the back burner for some time now and see if it packs bite.
Zombies need to be addressed first and foremost. Why put that out front? Well, mainly because there's so many different ways of doing zombies these days, and a lot of people tend to latch on to one camp or the other when they dig zombies. In this case, it's more the chemical-caused force-of-nature type zombies. I assume that they would be similar to what exists in that World War Z movie, had I seen any of it beyond the trailers. What I mean by this is specifically geared towards their movement patterns - which tends to be more like a massive water-wall of bodies, kinda just rolling over each other and splashing about as they funnel after their tasty meals. Actual motivation of why they seek giving other people a little nom to spread the disease isn't really touched on (unless I really missed something), and the origin of the problem is discussed briefly - but enough to at least answer questions about that. Mechanically though, the zombies do have some interesting little differences to the normal.
With the fast or slow situation answered and out of the way, we can move on to the main tour de force of the flick - the survivors. I mean, I use the term survivors loosely, because not all of them will last forever - I mean, can you imagine an entire train of people making it through a zombie movie from start to finish? Man, that would be quite uneventful eh? Anyways, these actors do a pretty darn great job. Yes, there's a few here or there that aren't all the convincing with their acting, but for the most part characters do a great job of making you feel for them or get attached. Sometimes, it's only to the extent of "that dude's nice enough to save people without having too" - but you know what, that's sometimes all it takes.
Most the characters don't degrade too much into blank stereotypes - most. The character that we are all knowingly meant to hate only feels as though they have extra depth if compared to one of the mains. Then, you get this nice stark contrast between a character who developed away from being an unlikable butt hole and one whose just stayed that way. For the most part, outside of who I would actually consider the main of the movie - the guy we spend the most time with - starts off as the stereotypical "Dad too busy with work to spend a lot of time with his kid or wife and therefore getting a divorce" kind of character. Considering we don't get a backstory for most the rest of the train gang, it makes his character start off feeling way more bland (until he actually starts to develop). Meanwhile, certain other characters become certainly easy to attach too, making you care about their survival or death with far more ease than I feel like should be possible.
The plot is as straightforward as it gets. As with any zombie movie, really, you could dig in a little bit for some social commentary if you really want, but for the most part it's "zombies, oh no, gotta get somewhere safe" as you'd expect from any zombie movie - the reinvention of the genre this is not. In that regard, some of the hype of this movie may have hurt it a little - yes, the characters are handled nicely considering how little you know about anyone outside the main, but it still essentially feels much like another zombie movie. Subtitles weren't much of a problem to keep up with without missing any action, and the dialogue (albeit I couldn't understand it at all) had plenty of emotion behind it as called for.
Effects department did a nice job, giving plenty of little splattering about. Gore-wise, there is nothing here as graphic as what you'd normally see in the zombie subset - and honestly, I like that fact. Sometimes it feels like the genre can just hyper-focus on that one aspect and things get needlessly hectic and drawn out after the fifth guts are torn scene. This isn't to say violence doesn't exist - there's plenty of biting, baseball bat whacking, punching, and even a broken limb or two thrown in here. Bloods frequent, but the fact these zombies care less about eating people and more about just propagating whatever virus they seem to have keeps most zombie-side violence to bite marks and plenty of blood. The frosted eyes and blackened veins make plenty of appearances though, just in case you may have forgot which blood-covered passengers were zombies or not.
The more horror movies I see set on trains, the more I start to think that confining a situation such as those presented into one place can really help things out. There are numerous times when passengers may disembark the train, but those oh-so-similar cars are where we spend the large amount of time after the movie picks up. There's little breathers in the flow of things to make sure you don't get over-excited, but they work in many different aspects to keep things thrilling - including darkened tunnels and sneaky tactics.
While I agree this is a good movie, and the reduced emphasis on the mega-guts field of violence helps make this more approachable to non-zombie fans, I don't necessarily feel that it wasn't over-hyped at least some. It's a good movie with strong acting, a well flowing plot and a pretty good use of it's setting. While I might not be saying it's the best movie of it's kind out there, It is a nice little change of pace from the super-generic zombie movies that flooded the market after they became popular again, and it is up there in the better drama's as far as zombie movies go. The fact that it can make you so attached to characters with such little actual substance behind those characters is impressive alone, so for that I'd wager it's at least worth a watch from the people that can stomach all the biting and bleeding.