I finally did it, you guys. I finally watched Train To Busan, after having skirted it for years.
I’ve been hearing great things about it, even from non-zombie flick fans, but had been reluctant to check it out, because I’ve always been a self-declared horror wuss. And a train full of zombies just felt like a bit much, to me. 😅
But today, I’ve finally decided to give it a try, since I’ve managed to enjoy some horror-themed shows like Happiness (zombies!) and Sweet Home (blood and monsters!), and whaddya know – this one’s not that hard to enjoy, after all!
I.. guess I’m less of a horror wuss than I’d thought, heh. 😁
Psst: Links to watch are at the end of the review!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Seok Woo (Gong Yoo) agrees to take his daughter Soo An (Kim Soo An) to Busan to see her mom on her birthday, but an unexpected zombie outbreak occurs.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
The main thing I’d like to mention in this section, is:
It’s not that scary, really.
I know. Lots of folks tried to tell me this, too, in their efforts to persuade me to check this out, and I found it hard to believe them.
But this is me – the self-declared horror wuss – saying that it’s really not that bad.
There’s some blood, but it’s not of the gratuitous gushy variety.
The zombies aren’t that scary to look at either.
Their eyes turn an ashy shade of white (you can just think of it as the actors wearing white contact lenses; that might help), and they mostly hiss a lot, and sometimes they bite, and that’s about it.
STUFF I LIKED
Gong Yoo as Seok Woo
First, let’s get the shallow stuff outta the way: I had not expected much in the way of eye candy, because this is a zombie show and all, but man, I gotta say, Gong Yoo‘s looking mighty fine in this.
My eyes; they did not complain. 😍
On a less shallow note, I really appreciated the character development we get, for Seok Woo.
He starts our story appearing to be quite heartless, and ready to throw people to the curb, if it meant his own survival.
And yet, by the middle of our story, he’s learned that it’s important to look out for others, and that there is value and power in solidarity.
The beats around these are moderate, as in, Show doesn’t hit us over the head with it, but I appreciate that these beats are there, and are given sufficient room to breathe, so that we are sure to pick up on and appreciate the changes in Seok Woo.
Seok Woo and Soo An
The relationship between Seok Woo and Soo An is a central one, since the whole reason they’re on the way to Busan, is because Soo An requests it.
When we start our story, the relationship with Seok Woo and Soo An is distant at best, with Seok Woo being quite the absent father.
Therefore, I found it quite touching to see Seok Woo fight to protect Soo An, over the course of our story.
He might have appeared distant and distracted, but his heart for Soo An had always been there, and as we see from the way he’d put himself in harm’s way in order to protect Soo An, he would do anything, to keep her safe.
I love this little handhold that we get, midway through our story, because it’s the first overt moment of tenderness that Seok Woo and Soo An share, after having been distant for so long, and therefore, this moment feels precious and significant. ❤️
Sang Hwa and Sung Kyung
It’s not long into the train ride, that we’re introduced to Sang Hwa and Sung Kyung (Ma Dong Seok and Jung Yu Mi), a couple who’s expecting their first child.
I kinda loved the running gag of Sang Hwa being a whipped puppy for Sung Kyung, but a tough badass in all other ways. I thought that was cute.
I also really liked Sang Hwa and Sung Kyung, for being kind to Soo An, and taking care of her, during the times when she’s separated from Seok Woo. That endeared them to me extra, for sure.
Young Guk and Jin Hee
I thought it was pretty fun to see Choi Woo Sik and Ahn So Hee show up as high schoolers Young Guk and Jin Hee.
Not only was it good to see more familiar faces, it also felt like a nice rounding out of our key cast, to have high schoolers and their youthful energy in the mix.
When strangers come together
One of the things I really enjoyed, was the sight of people who otherwise didn’t know one another, actually come together to fight for a common goal.
I especially liked that Sang Hwa and Seok Woo came to a better understanding, after having started things on the wrong foot.
In particular, I appreciated that moment when Sang Hwa even encourages Seok Woo, that one day, Soo An would come to understand why he’d worked so hard, and why he hadn’t had time to play with her much.
That felt kind and compassionate, made even more so, by the fact that this is all said in the midst of a situation where they could be attacked by zombies at any time.
There is some less than nice behavior on display, in our story, and I found it thought-provoking, because these aren’t evil monsters. These are just regular people who’ve suddenly found themselves in an extraordinary situation.
I had to wonder what I would have done, if I’d found myself in their shoes. Would I also have made selfish demands, out of fear for my life?
It’s stuff like this that makes this movie feel deeper than a mindless zombie flick.
On a tangent, I also wanted to mention that similar to Happiness, the zombies here are viewed as the infected.
What’s different here, is that there is no facility where the infected are kept, in attempts to treat them.
I rationalize that this is the actual beginning of the outbreak, and that things would have likely looked similar, in the early stages of the infection, in Happiness’s story world.
When the zombie infection has just started, and the infection numbers are exploding, it makes sense that everyone’s reflex response is to survive at all costs – even if it means treating the zombies, who’d recently been human, just like the next person, as monsters.
I found this bit thought-provoking as well.
Like, as disturbing as it is, that our core team bludgeons Young Guk’s zombie-infected teammates on their heads, is there really anything else they could have done, if they wanted to survive..?
Is there anything else that I would have done differently, if I had been in their shoes..?
Those are some pertinent questions indeed.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
In true zombie movie fashion (not that I’ve seen all that many, ha, but I imagine this to be the case), we start to lose more and more of our core cast, as we get nearer the end of our story.
I was gutted to lose Sang Hwa, because I think he’s great. I found him lovable and badass, all at once, and he was such an asset to the team.
It was a truly poignant moment, when he asks Seok Woo to take care of Sung Kyung for him, as he sacrifices himself, in order to buy the group some time.
I mean, I kinda knew that he was a goner the moment he got bitten in the hand, but it was still really sad to see him make this decision.
And, it’s so poignant that the person to whom he entrusts the safety of his wife, is none other than Seok Woo, whom he’d found pretty hateful, to begin with.
Afterwards, I found it tragic that we lose both Jin Hee and Young Guk, in quick succession.
It’s utterly horrible that the COO dude (Kim Eui Sung) pushes Jin Hee towards the zombies as a decoy, in order to save himself, but again, when it comes to a life and death situation like that, it’s really hard to say what you would do, in his place.
And then, as Jin Hee turns, it’s so heartbreaking to see Young Guk cry over her, and then basically give himself up to her.
I tend to think that he chooses to do this, because she’d told him that she would follow him wherever he went, and now, he’s returning the gesture, by going where she’s gone. Sob. 😭
In the end, though, the sacrifice that gets me in the heart the most, is the one that Seok Woo makes for Soo An (and Sung Kyung, who’s with her).
The way things were going, I suppose it’s not that much of a shocker, that Seok Woo would end up sacrificing his life in order to protect Soo An, but still, the way it’s done manages to get me, right in the heart.
In that small window of time before he turns, after getting bitten, he does whatever he can, to secure Soo An’s safety, and hold her hand, and then he gets outta there and hides at the end of the carriage, so that she won’t have to see him turn.
And then how surprisingly poignant, that when he does turn, we see that his thoughts are filled with the moments when he’d first held Soo An in his arms, right after she’d been born.
The joy then, and the joy now, in his face, is unmistakable, and I’m completely moved by his love for his little girl.
Following this, the way he then allows himself to fall off the moving train – again, in order to protect his little girl – is so willing and graceful, that I’m completely gutted.
Such a willing sacrifice, made with what feels like a sense of.. peace.
I’m pretty convinced that Seok Woo’s dying thoughts are probably along the lines of, “If this is the last thing that I can do for my little girl, then this was a life well lived.” 😭
I’m utterly relieved that Soo An and Sung Kyung end up surviving, coz Show really had me going for a hot second, that they would be killed by those soldiers, as a preemptive measure.
THANK GOODNESS those soldiers heard the song that Soo An was singing – for her dad! – and concluded that this meant they couldn’t be infected.
How completely poignant, that in this way, Seok Woo ends up saving his daughter, not once, but twice.
Such profound fatherly love, given so freely; as beautiful as it is bittersweet. 😭❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Engaging, heartfelt and thought-provoking, despite its zombie premise.
FINAL GRADE: B++
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out the show on Tubi, Viki, AppleTV, Netflix and YouTube.
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It’s great you finally were able to watch this. I too am not into zombies or horror, but I loved Train to Busan! I loved that it mixed suspense with heart and character development. We just don’t see that enough in the horror/zombie genre. A fantastic movie all around 🙂
Oh wow, you did it! Great review, I agree with your thoughts. It’s been a few years since I saw this, but it’s an unforgettable film. I cried too. That ending and his daughter singing stick with you long after the credits. Zombie movies rarely evoke such emotions unless they’re character-driven. (For that I can recommend the American indie drama “Maggie.”, the Australian heartbreaking “Cargo,” the French, one man trapped alone in “The Night eats the world,” the offbeat, intellectual Canadian “Pontypool” or the somewhat humorous, sad, scary, British film, “Stalled.”)
@ladyg Yes, I finally did it!! 😁 And it only took me.. 6 years?!? 😜 And I agree, that ending was very well done.
Thanks for the other film suggestions – you really have seen quite an eclectic collection!
haha! I know I have some dramas and movies I still haven’t even seen. I’m a little annoyed that all the really good new things are on Netflix these days, I canceled my subscription last year. I kind of became a Z-movie “connoisseur” over the years. The Korean ZMovie #Alive is actually very good! I was terrified of them as a child. lol I’m not a big horror buff, but I caught on to those. Youtube has a lot of amazing, Z-short films too.
There is no zombie like a K-zombie!
Ahaha, yes, the k-zombie shows that I’ve seen so far, all have had a nice amount of heart, so I’ll tentatively second that! (tentatively only because I haven’t actually seen enough k-zombie shows to have a properly informed opinion! 😅)
I was quite impressed with Train to Busan, and it is a family favourite. However, they tell me the sequel isn’t the best, so I haven’t watched it.
I can still recall many scenes from it and I felt they dealt with the behaviour and reaction of the characters quite well. My most anxious moment: the mobile phone and trying to keep one’s hands out of harms way.
It’s interesting when you “train” for evacuations, then actually go through a real situation, that’s when you get a feeling for how you might react in a more dire situation. That’s one of the things I liked about Happiness – the main couple were prepared to be responsible, even when it was most grim.
Further to the comments below, Kingdom is excellent, and I think you would be impressed by the quality of each production.
The show I have fallen in love with though (after the superb From Now on, Showtime), is Kiss Sixth Sense – it’s awesome. However, Trent might start frothing at the mouth as it is on Disney+ 😂
@seankfletcher Ooh, no wonder I haven’t really heard anything about the sequel.. in fact, I only discovered there was a sequel, when looking up the cast list for this movie, for this review! 😁
Yes, it really is an interesting exercise, to think about what one might do in a real situation, because things look a lot less clean-cut, when you’re the one in the life or death situation! 😅
Good to hear that you endorse Kingdom too – looks like I need to take a look at that, when I’m ready for another zombie offering!
I’m starting to hear positive things about Kiss Sixth Sense, how fun, that you’re enjoying it so well! Looks like Disney+ has struck again..! 😜 But at least Trent’s VPN trick is still working, so there’s that!
If you suddenly hear my agonized screams because I can’t access the last two weeks of Bloody Heart, you will know that it suddenly stopped working 😲😱🤬
Eek, banish the thought, I say! May there be no agonized screaming whatsoever! 😅
Particularly since the ending of ep. 12…well. I am keenly interested in reading your episode breakdown, let’s just say.
Ooh, I’m intrigued!! I’m a few episodes behind you guys, as you know.. but I’ll get there!
Sean – Kiss Sixth Sense – I am IN!
Sean – I am 20 minutes into Kiss Sixth Sense and all of my spidey sense bells are ringing with delight! Big thanks on this one.
Phl – it is so well done, and the leads are some of my favourite actors.
That scene at the end of episode 1 – wow. Then in episode 2 – “work spouse.” Both are rocking the screen 😊😊😊
Sean – I am watching over on the dark side and it has been a task. Some of their servers will not stream the first several episodes and show copyright violations. So I had better watch as soon as posted.
I am enjoying this tremendously.
Phl – I’m lucky that it is on Disney+ here. In fact, D+ is very quickly rolling out even more drama content.
I got home late Friday, so Saturday afternoon I continued my delicious journey with Kiss. Honestly, it has become even more wow.
Then I caught up with Doctor Lawyer this morning. I like it, quite a few don’t. The start was okay, but now it’s hitting it’s stride. One hell of a cast.
Ah, it looks like my complaints are registering! Even if, unfortunately, it’s only with those who have no power to do anything about them…. (I have actually seen Kiss Sixth Sense in the roster of shows as I’ve been firing up Bloody Heart the last couple episodes. The premise had not exactly reached out and grabbed me, but if people keep saying it’s overachieving…hmmm).
ETA: Yes, re: Kingdom, I think one of its selling points is that you can see the budget that presumably went into it right up on the screen, because it looks quite good. There’s a patina or feel of gritty realism that a number of sageuk I’ve seen don’t really share, as they seem more “theme park sanitized” to my eyes.
Masterpiece. And i hate Zombie movies
It really is very good – and I’m not a fan of zombie shows as a genre either! 😁
Omg I’m so impressed you watched this! You’ve come so far. I’m still fraidy cat so I wouldn’t watch it but it was a lovely review nonetheless.
I do feel like I’ve come so far! Or maybe I’ve just managed to find the milder scary shows, heh. 😅 This one’s quite mild, I thought, so if you’re ever feeling a bit brave, it’s definitely worth a look – as I’ve found out belatedly! 😁
Wow Fangurl – I cannot believe that you watched this. I have only watched three zombie movies – #1 Shaun of the Dean, #2 Train to Busan and #3 Zombie Detective.
My family loves all Zombie Movies and went on a zombie watching spree during the 2020 lock down. Yikes, I thought it would never end. 😲🤯😁😂🤣
Oo I love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz! But I do love Hot Fuzz more… hahah
MC – Simon Pegg is a delight.
Yikes, your family’s zombie watching spree must’ve been hard on you, @phl1rxd!! 😅
If could watch this one, you might actually like Happiness. I liked that one a lot, especially the contract marriage between Park Hyung Sik’s and Han Hyo Joo’s characters! 😍
Fangurl – I am laughing over here as I never made it through Happiness. I dropped it, 😂🤣😅 I did however, enjoy seeing Park Hyung Sik if only for a short time.
@phl1rxd Whoops. I forgot that you did give Happiness a try, when we were all watching it together over on Patreon. My bad, sorry! 🙈
It’s too bad it didn’t work out for you, but yes, Park Hyung Sik is exceedingly appealing in that.. I’m glad you managed to get a quick taste! 😋
Thank goodness we are all different and like different things or the world would be so boring.
@phl1rxd, I am a big fan of Zombieland.
Oh my gongyoo!!! I didn’t know you hadn’t seen this yet! He’s one of your ultimates! I ONLY watched it because he was in it…the power of ONLY Gong Yoo. I will not watch any horror/zombie movie for anyone else!
I know, I’d thought that this would be too much for me, being about zombies and all.. I guess my discomfort at the thought of zombies was greater than my Gong Yoo loyalty, at least for a while! 😅
Now I can finally say that I’ve seen it – and that I liked it! 😉
OMG! You actually watched this!! You are one step closer to zombie flick veteran…Bring on Kingdom and All of Us Are Dead, I say!
This really is a justly celebrated movie; it’s got the adrenaline and it’s got the feels, all in good measure. That final scene with
Ahaha! YES, I FINALLY WATCHED THIS!!
Oddly, when I was thinking about what to watch, and flipping through titles, I just homed in on this one, like, IT’S TIME. 😁
I don’t know about All Of Us Are Dead (didn’t you say that that one’s a true zombie show, with way more blood than you think I’d be comfortable with?), but.. maybe Kingdom, now that you mention it..? 😅
All of Us Are Dead is a true zombie show, yes…I would put its gore quotient as middling? It’s not like George Romero levels (Night of the Living Dead, etc.), I don’t think? (I’m not actually a true zombie flick connoisseur, to be honest). I think it has a few uneasy moments/scenes, but not too much beyond Train to Busan, and it has (again, my opinion) a fairly engaging story and interesting emotional dynamics, so. (Needless to say, given my enthusiasm, I was quite happy to see they just confirmed this week that they would be doing a second season).
Kingdom is…a sageuk with really high production values, really good acting, and a rampaging ravaging horde of zombies. Once again, a few uneasy scenes, might push the gross-out envelope here and there, but overall manageable?
I just checked out the trailers again for both shows, and so far, All Of Us Are Dead looks a lot more intense? Unless Kingdom’s keeping its bloody intensity under wraps and not showing it in its trailer, which is entirely possible! 😅
I’ll keep both on my list, and see which one I feel brave enough to try out next! 😁
I think it is fair to say that Kingdom is more slow burn, yes… I will be mucho impressed if/when you take the plunge on either, though! 😁
Ahaha.. I think I will be impressed too..! 😂
Bravo, kfangurl, for stepping outside your comfort zone! I’m not a horror aficionado either, but also enjoyed this one.
Besides the ones you mentioned, I thought a most affecting scene was the one with the phone call (how’s that for spoiler avoidance).
I would join @Trent in nudging you toward Kingdom. I know that there is supposedly more to come, but for now it might be best to think of the two Netflix 6-episode “seasons” as combining together for a regular K-drama 12-episode season plus the one-off Ashin of the North as a drama special add-on.
Thanks @j3ffc, I guess when I look over the past couple of years, I have definitely stepped out of my comfort zone! That said, this one really didn’t turn out to be a scary watch, after all.. which means that all the other comfort zone stretching I’ve been doing, seems to have worked! 😁
Ooh, I’d forgotten that there are multiple pieces to this Kingdom puzzle! Quick question: Can Season 1 stand alone? Asking just in case I find myself without an appetite to go into Season 2. 😅
Hmm, good question! I’d say that if you put on your Zombie Movie Viewing Lens, where most films stop rather than really end (or so it seems to me), the first six episodes could definitely stand alone as a set piece. But the story continues into Netflix’s “Season 2”, while Ashin is a prequel that connects up with the end of NS2. Or, to put it another, way, since NS1 and NS2 were separately released, most people who watched at the beginning finished up at the end of NS1 anyway. Or, to put it a third way, six episodes would give you a feel for the series in any regard. Hope this helps….
Oh, that’s a good way to put it, @j3ffc, that most of these zombie shows stop, rather than end! I think I get what you mean. And that’s an important lens adjustment to make, so thanks for that! 😉
There’s no way you’ll be able to stop between seasons 1 and 2 of Kingdom… That show is on another level; and they managed that without even a hint of romance, that is no small feat! That being said, I don’t see season 3 coming and that is pretty frustrating.
Oh, does Season 2 end on a cliffhanger, then? 😬 Good to hear the show is so solid, though.. I guess I’ll need to check it out, the next time I’m ready for some zombies! 😅
@KFG — yes and no. The overall narrative arc winds up fairly conclusively, but then there are a couple of hooks at the very end. One that would allow the writer to springboard into a third season, if they were so inclined, and the second leading directly to the “Ashin of the North” one-off prequel that Netflix produced with Jun Ji-hyun as the star. But overall, I think it stops at a narratively satisfying place at the end of S2.
@Trent, I just watched the first episode of All Of Us Are Dead and I am all in! I love high school/coming of age dramas, so giving the classic genre a fresh zombie spin is exciting.
@Snowflower — I find that generally speaking, angsty high school shows are not really my thing, unless they have extra or extreme element to spice it up, really give the kids something worth angsting about, like zombies (All of us are Dead) or an illegal business venture (Extracurricular).
I hope you continue to enjoy; I think it actually packs a surprisingly emotional punch in many spots.
Kingdom is excellent indeed! Think of it a well done political thriller with a sharp commentary on class division and lust for power. Yes, there are zombies and a lot of blood, but don’t let that be a distraction!