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Train to Busan (2016)

Well Go USA
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/13/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/22/2016

If you were to ask me to name a genre which is played out...well, I would name a lot more than one. But one which would certainly be on the list is zombie movies. Through theatrical films, direct-to-video releases, television shows, and even video games, we've got zombies coming at us from every angle. From the creativity of things like World War Z to the banality of The Walking Dead, zombies have incorporated so many subgenres and themes that one would have to assume that there is nothing left to say. To that end, it's up to filmmakers to try and shake up some ideas and try to either say something new or combine enough old elements as to appear somewhat new. The Korean entry Train to Busan offers a take on the genre with a different cultural view.

Train to Busan introduces us to businessman Seok Woo (Yoo Gong), who has little time for his young daughter, Soo-an (Soo-an Kim). Soo-an's birthday wish is to visit her estranged mother in Busan. Seok Woo refuses at first, but then gives in, and two board the train the next morning. As the train is about to leave the station, two things occur. First, an injured woman leaps through the doors as they are about to close. Secondly, news breaks that there are disturbances throughout the region. The injured woman attacks a train employee and an epidemic of a rabies-like contagion begins to spread throughout the train. As the barrels through the countryside, the stable passengers attempt to flee from or hide from the infected. Is there a safe place where the train can stop?

Zombies in Asian films is nothing new, as filmmakers from Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong have long since embraced the undead in their films. In addition, Japanese video games like Resident Evil and House of the Dead have prominently featured zombies. Train to Busan takes some of these traditional Eastern ideas and incorporate some different things. Traveling via train is an everyday occurrence for people in Asia, but this norm has been mixed with the very American idea of "Die Hard on a...", as the group is trapped in the railcar. The zombies here are of the very fast and violent variety, as seen in Dawn of the Dead (2004) and 28 Days Later. The movie also goes all the way back to Night of the Living Dead by often taking the focus off of the zombies and bringing in the "man's inhumanity towards man" angle. In addition, the relationship between Seok Woo and Soo-an acts as the emotional center for the movie.

However, the emphasis here is on the action. The movie takes a while to get going, but once the first zombie attack takes place, the action rarely lets up. The violence here is very frenetic, but the level of gore is relatively low. (Note that I said relatively.) While the characters are on the train, they fight in a variety of ways. And the movie wisely gets them off of the train, which adds a definite element of suspense. Much of the third act reminded me of something which would be in a Resident Evil game, most notably with the moments where the zombies break through glass. (In fact, there are some scenes here which I'm fairly certain were taken directly from Resident Evil Zero.)

Train to Busan certainly shakes things up a bit, but it does not break the mold. The train setting is somewhat unique (although not wholly original), as is the trip with father and daughter. The zombies here are decidedly ferocious and they show off some creepy postures at times. Writer/Director Sang-ho Yeon shows that he has a handle on suspense during some key scenes, most notably during the third act. Having said that, at two hours, the movie is too long and gets repetitive at times. And while the movie wants to have a fresh voice, at the end of the day, this feels like a greatest hits of other zombie movies, as opposed to a truly new piece. This is better than most of the modern zombie offerings, especially the direct-to-video of SyFy Channel drek, but it pales in comparison to some of the classics.

Train to Busan made head straight for the airport on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Well Go USA. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and are notably bold for a horror film. The movie never takes on a dark look and the action is always clearly visible. The level of detail is very good and the image is rarely soft. The depth works quite well and does a nice job of defining the length of the train cars. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (DTS X) track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 7.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track provides some insanely high bitrates at times. The mix highlights the various sounds coming from inside the train, and these flow through the front and surround channels. We get some nicely detailed sounds at times. The subwoofer effects really drive home some of the action scenes, most notably during the finale.

The Train to Busan Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Behind the Scenes" (13 minutes) is merely a reel of "fly on the wall" video from the sets and locations as we get to see some key scenes being shot. This does not contain any interviews with the cast or crew, but we do get to hear them commenting about certain aspects of what is going on. This same approach continues in "That's a Wrap" (5 minutes), where we get to see Sang-ho Yeon and Yoo Gong speaking to the camera about the production coming to a close. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long