It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born. For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. South Korean writer/director Yeon Sang-ho has crafted two of the strongest zombie films in recent memory, and he did them back-to-back: Train to Busan and Seoul Station are both set in the same zombie apocalypse, and while Seoul Station is sometimes referred to as a prequel, it’s really just an alternate story occurring at the same time. Zombie cinema, when not preoccupied with cartoonish caricatures, splatterstick comedy, or straight-up gross-out gore, is perhaps the genre of film most accommodating of Existential philosophy. Not only are the characters dealing with a graphic representation of the inevitability of death, the realization of Sartre’s “Hell is other people” quip, and the dissolution of faith, the best films also address the notion of finding meaning in a meaningless world. Albert Camus’ The Rebel (1951) sought to address the feeling of alienation that often accompanies the realization that in a world without an objective meaning (most frequently imposed by religion and its punishment/reward system of establishing morality). His approach leads to an absurdist humanism that rejects the Romanticism atheistic humanism (individual man as the source of morality), the metaphysical preoccupations of Christian humanism (the divine as the source of morality), as well as purely secular humanism (a passive, relativistic view of morality), to instead embrace meaninglessness and the absurd to find the dignity of life as the source or morality and a centered meaning for existence. Essentially, it is the absurd sensibility that, though alone in existence, one must look to others as a way of banishing nihilism and finding meaning through community. This rebellion against isolation also avoids both the teleological and theological justifications for morality and meaning characterized by secular and religious humanism. He wrote: “We are at the extremity now. At the end of this tunnel of darkness, however, there is inevitably a light… we only have to fight to ensure its coming. All of us, among the ruins, are preparing a renaissance beyond the limits of nihilism” (The Rebel, pg 305). And that, quite literally, brings us to Train to Busan. Hailed everywhere as one of the best zombie films in recent memory, Train to Busan certainly lives up to the hype. On the surface, the novelty of zombies on a train is reminiscent to that of Flight of the Living Dead, although, where Flight squandered an interesting premise, Train to Busan makes the absolute most of its setting (in a similar way fellow South Korean director Joon-ho Bong did with 2013’s Snowpiercer, but with very different themes). The story follows divorced fund manager Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) as he accompanies his young daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim) to Busan on her birthday to visit her mother. Seok-woo is a workaholic, which is what contributed to his divorce and is currently contributing to his isolation from Soo-an. However, the main reason he’s taking this trip with her is guilt over not being around for her recent solo singing recital and screwing up her birthday present. Sure, one can argue that he’s working all the time for her, but that’s a pretty empty excuse when it pushes her to want to go live with mom instead. It’s a pretty universal set-up, and once the inevitable zombie outbreak occurs, Seok-woo’s insistence on saving themselves at the expense of everybody else on the train sets those Existential themes I was talking about in motion and the rest of the film is spent watching his daughter’s innocence (as well as the heroism of Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) who is trying to protect his pregnant wife (Yu-mi Jung)) influence his own sense of morality. He goes from being your typical self-centered egoist to an absurdist rebel before everything is said and done. This is accomplished against a backdrop of breakneck action as Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and high-school baseball player Yong-guk (Woo-sik Choi) get separated from their friends and families and have to figure out a way to traverse multiple train cars filled with zombies to rescue them. Ultimately, our heroes are contrasted against the businessman Yon-suk (Eui-sung Kim) who becomes the face of selfish nihilism (despite his true motives being more sentimental than selfish). In the philosophic world of Train to Busan, that selfishness must be punished, and on the opposite side, absurd heroism isn’t immune to loss – it is, perhaps, defined by it – which helps make Train to Busan the strongest film of this year’s marathon so far. Also, this movie made me cry like a baby – a feat that only Shaun of the Dead has accomplished in this genre. Less than a month after Train to Busan was released in South Korea, Sang-ho Yeon released an animated follow-up, Seoul Station. Train was Yeon’s first live-action feature, and he was mainly known for two highly regarded previous animated features, The King of Pigs (2011) and The Fake (2013). Seoul Station shares more thematically with his earlier animated works than it does with Train to Busan. It’s darker, more nihilistic, and is unrelenting in its presentation of emotionally damaged characters. Whereas Train focused on family and used that as a way of exploring meaning, morality, and heroism, Seoul Station chooses instead to focus on the disenfranchised and socially disposable. The main thrust of the film follows Suk-gyu (Seung-ryong Ryu), a father searching for his runaway daughter, Hye-sun (Shim Eun-kyung), only to discover that she has become a prostitute. He tracks down her pimp, Ki-woong (Lee Joon) and forces him to find Hye-sun. Unfortunately, this is the night the zombie apocalypse begins. What follows is a much more traditional approach to the genre, as Suk-gyu and Ki-woong deal with the police and military who are quarantining parts of Seoul, while Hye-sun is trapped behind the lines with other homeless people. They are treated as much as a threat as the zombies, to be honest, and this social criticism is what helps to elevate this film above most of the things we’ve been watching (and most zombie movies in general). Even the final twist is brutal, and just when you think there may be hope for the characters, Youn turns the knife and we are left with the exact opposite feeling we get at the end of Train. It’s the sort of punch that What We Become hoped to land, but missed entirely. Yeon’s animation is, as with his previous films, very clean and realistic. The linework is beautiful and the violence, while stylized to an extent, is extremely believable. This approach separates it from other animated features we’ve reviewed over the years, which took more cartoony angles, often playing up the melodrama and/or comedy. Seoul Station doesn’t play that game. This is a work of art meant to stand alongside live-action features and it serves as a powerful companion piece to Train to Busan. See larger image Train To Busan [Blu-ray] When a mysterious virus breaks out across the country, the infected turn into the murderous undead. A few terrified travelers find themselves trapped on a bullet train from hell, fighting for their lives as hordes of the living dead crash towards them, crawling closer with every stop. Suspicion is rife and tensions run high as some will do anything to survive and make it to the safe zone.Bonus FeaturesBehind the ScenesThat’s A WrapEnglish Language AvailableTrailerLanguage: Korean (original), English (dub)Available Subtitles: English New From: $14.18 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.