For some reason, I love movies (and books) set in enclosed or cut-off places. For example, The Shining (isolated resort hotel) or The Poseidon Adventure (capsized ship). So when I read about Train to Busan, a zombie movie set entirely on a train, I knew I had to see it. Never mind that zombie movies are overdone. The moment they set it on a train, I was on board (groan).
With Halloween approaching, this is the perfect time to finally watch it. As I write this, I have not seen it yet, so I’ll record my thoughts on what I expect, then my reactions after watching.
Expectation: Like Snowpiercer, but with zombies! Heavy focus on a few characters trying to survive in the tight space of a moving train. I assume the engineer has been zombified, meaning they can’t stop. Maybe our heroes need to work their way forward to the engine?
Reaction: This is definitely not just a scare-fest. Although some moments struck me as a little over-the-top, this movie surprised me in a good way. Not all of my expectations panned out (more of the movie takes place off of the train than I thought), but it really delivered. The main character is a work-obsessed father, reluctantly taking his daughter to Busan for her birthday, where she will see her mother (his estranged wife.) He’s a classic anti-hero who grows over the course of the film.
What makes the movie so good is the emotional component. Zombies are scary, but we also see how frightening human nature can be. People who are panicked, and people who are “just following orders,” take the situation from bad to terrifying. The film does not rely on gore or jump-scares, but it is brutal. As expected, the tight space of the train makes for a lot of tension and close calls. We’re introduced to many characters at the beginning, and they do not all survive.
The movie does a great job with setup, too. The situation on the train is perfectly synched with events off of the train. Many of us are familiar with the feeling of slowly learning that something awful is happening, and the anxiety of relying on incomplete information. Suddenly strangers can become close allies, but not everyone responds in the same way. Large-scale emergencies bring out the best and worst in us. That premise is just as central to this film as the zombies.
Catch the trainWatch Train to Busan
Megan is a Children’s Library Assistant at CLP – East Liberty. When she isn’t reading fantasy, magical realism and/or pretty much any children’s book, she enjoys gaming, watching movies and writing fiction, some of which has been published.