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Train to Busan

Year: 2016
Production Co: Next Entertainment World
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Writer: Joo-Suk Park, Sang-ho Yeon
Cast: Yoo Gong, Su-an Kim

How many zombie movies, books and TV shows have we seen over the last couple of decades? You'd think the genre had been wrung completely dry by now, but Train to Busan is proof that the best entertainment can come not necessarily from 100 percent original ideas (see all manner of pop psychology about how ther are only seven basic plots to all literature), but the execution of those ideas and the arts – from writing to performance – that deliver them.

Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) is a divorced dad and workaholic who barely has time for his cute daughter Su-an (Kim Soo-ahn) when she comes to Seoul to visit him on weekends. A bit ashamed of himself when it turns out he's missed a school performance she was looking forward to having him at, he agrees to her one wish for her birthday – to get to Busan to see her mother.

He hurridely clears his schedule and just as they board the train, something is happening in the city around them – fire and ambulance crews are everywhere, sirens screaming, and only Su-an sees a station guard jumped and attacked by something too fast to see as the train pulls away.

But the zombie outbreak that's befallen Seoul is following them in the form of a young woman who gets on the train a few carriages back, sweating and starting to convulse from a bite on her leg. As she turns, attacking the attendants and infecting more passengers, chaos reigns.

Train To Busan cleaves very close to a lot of the classic tropes that makes the genre great, and it does them all very well. The well-worn template takes a bit of time introducing characters and their relationships including the tough guy and his pregnant wife, the baseball kids, the elderly sisters, the abrasive older businessman, the surviving steward and more, then shows you how they act, react and die as the situation spins more out of control.

And even though we've seen this a hundred times since Night of the Living Dead – who's going to fold, who's going to come through with true heroism, who's going to mess up the works with their fear and selfishness – watching it unfold is great fun.

There's just enough gore to make it a genuine zombie movie, and it's an effective horror movie too – these are the zombies of Zack Snyder or World War Z rather than Romero, swarming in packs, running at a full sprint and hissing and convulsing like rabid, out of control animals.

Writer Park Joo-suk and director Yeon Sang-ho don't get ideas above their station and none of it's trying to be too clever or break out from the genre. They know what a zombie movie is and they serve it up almost perfectly.

There's just one thing that might trip you up - either the young actress Kim Soo-ahn is startingly talented for her age or they have very different customs and laws around child performers in Korea. She seems so genuinely upset and traumatised in the final scenes it's hard to believe it's not real.

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