RJ Bayley Reviews: Train to Busan
Remember the Under Siege movies? You know, those ones with Steven Seagal, which were often described as “Die Hard on a boat” or in the case of the sequel, “Die Hard on a train.”
Well, finally, after nearly twenty-two years, Under Siege gets to be the point of reference. So, to give it its full moment in the sun, I will give it its own line and do it properly:
Train to Busan is like Under Siege 2 with zombies.
That’s no diss, I actually really like Under Siege 2. But Train to Busan is much better.
The actual premise itself isn’t absolutely novel. The ‘trapped in a small location with zombies’ thing has been done before, most effectively in Rec.
What Train to Busan does achieve over Rec. is the sense of how many zombies the humans are trapped with. It’s the the literal funneling of zombies into a sealed tube with them at either or both ends, usually with a need to get past them, that makes the situation so tense.
It’s also particularly apparent that there are no guns to fight the zombies with, something we’ve become all too used to from American fiction like The Walking Dead and the Resident Evil media franchise. In Train to Busan, you really do get the sense that these are just a bunch of commuters caught in a horrific situation.
Admittedly there is one character who is cartoonishly villainous and breaks the reality of the film. He’s a constant reminder you’re watching a movie every scene he’s in. There’s also some pretty pongy dialogue and at times the story sticks annoyingly close to zombie movie cliches.
That’s OK though, because with Train to Busan we see the true birth of what I’m calling ‘fluid zombies’. First there were classic zombies. Then came running zombies. Now we have the next evolution.
These things come crashing through in a tidal wave like blood from the Overlook Hotel’s elevator in one fluid mass of bodies. It’s quite a sight to behold, especially when they come barrelling down a train station stairway in slow motion, the outliers smashing and washing up against the sides of the walkway.
Yes, technically this type of zombie did appear in World War Z before, but those zombies were so ineffective and unthreatening, much like that whole movie itself, they doesn’t really count. That was simply a prototype for fluid zombies. Train to Busan is the real thing in practise and they are a glorious and needed refreshing of the heavily used monsters.
Train to Busan, despite minor problems on the line, is a non stop locomotive of carnage.