South Korean

Train to Busan

It was super refreshing as a fan of zombies movies to see this film. It’s a great example of a great zombie film, as it makes the characters feel relatable. It was well written, well acted and well shot. So if you haven’t seen this film because that it’s subtitled. Then you are doing yourself a disservice. I’ve loved the horror films that I’ve seen come out of South Korea for all the same reasons. Reasons I’ll go more into depth about shortly.

Train to Busan opens with Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) a workaholic, who’s recently separated for his wife and has custody of their young daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim). Seok-woo wants to be a good father, but due to his job is unable to find the time to relate with his daughter. For her birthday Soo-an wants to go to Busan to see her mother. Seok-woo agrees to take her by train the next day. After boarding the train a zombie outbreak sweeps the nation. With an infected woman getting on board, turning and attacking. Further spreading the infection of the high speed train. Eventually the passengers who have manged to flee to the front of train notice that the infected are stupied and wont try to attack if they don’t see you.  The other survivors include, husband and wife Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) and Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jung), sisters In-gil (Soo-jung Ye) and Jong-gil (Myung-sin Park), Yon-suk (Kim Eui-sung) a rich CEO, teenagers Yong-guk (Choi Woo-shik) and Jin-hee (Ahn So-hee). The train tries to stop at the next station only to see that it is overrun. It continues on until it reaches a city that its told is safe. Seok-woo learns the city is quarinteened and makes plans through his contacts at work to be evacuated there with his daughter. But that station too is overrun and the survivors barely make it back, while many of the other do not. But in the race to reach the train Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, Yong-guk are separated from the others and must fight the their way to them through infected filled train cars as the train races for the last open city… Busan.

So the things I loved. First was the dread location, putting this film on a train was great. The claustrophobic atmosphere was great and it made for some very intense action scenes. I also liked the sense of finality that the train brought, as it has a destination, at the very least the tracks have to end somewhere. Keeping the thought of hope and rescue alive. Only to squash it.

The acting was also pretty fantastic. I’m not as knowledgeable in South Korean films to identify the actors or reference their past work against this one. But they all do a great job, making for a very strong ensemble. My person favorite was Dong-seok as MaSang-hwa.

I also loved the effects, as the infected are just great. The gore while minimal is visceral keeping the threat and terror more real and closer to home. There’s plenty of blood and people being attacked, but the gore is never the show case and often times feels a little played down for the sake of tone.

Final thoughts, I loved this movie. Easily one of if not thee best zombie film I’ve seen in a while. Maybe since The Battery. It’s just that good. Train to Busan is worth all of the praise that it receives and I feel is a must watch for the zombie fans out there. As its great zombie film with more than a few touching moments. 10/10

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The Red Shoes (2005)

5138657_origI recently started watching more Asian Horror at the urging of a friend. This film is among the ones she suggested I view and I have mixed feelings on it. The Red Shoes (Bunhogsin) is a 2005 South Korean Horror/Mystery directed by Kim Yong-gyun based on the Fairy Tale of the same name and I use based here loosely a more fitting term would be inspired by. That has some very striking visuals, but suffers from a chaotic and jumbled plot.

The film opens with a girl on the subway looking a pair of red shoes left abandoned at the edge of the platform. She goes over to claim the shoes as her own to be attacked by a fellow classmate who takes the shoes claiming they were hers. The classmate then leaves and in the classic horror format is killed. The film then shifts to following Sun-jae (played by Kim Hye-soo) a mother in an unhappy marriage who, upon coming home early one day finds her husband with another woman. Sun-jae leaves him taking her daughter Tae-su (played by Park Yeon-ah) with her and move into a small dark apartment near the subway. Later Sun-jae meets with the films leading man In-cheol (played by Kim Sung-soo) an architect working on the interior design for her new business. On her way home she sees the pair of red shoes from the films opening and takes the unclaimed shoes. She becomes fascinated and obsessive over the shoes as does her daughter. We start to learn the who ever steals the shoes which all women who see them are compelled to do die. Now that her daughter has stolen the shoes from her Sun-jae with the help of In-cheol who by this time has become her boyfriend must unravel the mystery of the shoes leading them back to the murder of a ballerina sixty years prior.

So this film has a lot going for it and over all I did enjoy it. The acting was mostly solid with Kim Hye-soo, Kim Sung-soo and Kim Mi-hee who plays Sun-jae’s friend does notably good performances. The death scenes are all solid, even original at times. The films atmosphere is both immersive and haunting, making me recommend it to fans of ghost revenge stories.

But the film is also very cliched and also very predictable at times. Mostly when it comes to Sun-jae’s subplots involving her husband. Also much of the internal logic of the film seems to fall apart if you look at it for too long. But it’s the films baffling ending that annoys me most. I had to look up what the film was trying to say online after the fact the twist just didn’t make any sense to me. This could be a culture or a language barrier issue, but I can’t help but feel it’s more an issue of bad storytelling.

But the films biggest crime is the pacing. Long stretches of the films screen time passes in which very little happens and that’s something that will take the fright out of me every single time. Much if is to add to the atmosphere, but fails abysmally at it.

So at the end of it all what do I think? The Red Shoes is… meh. It’s got some great visual shots and even some fun character development. Altho it also has the smell of a film that was shot before the script was where it needed to be to tell the story that it wanted to tell. So I give The Red Shoes a 6/10. I recommend this film to people who enjoy ghost stories and aren’t bothered by needlessly jumbled story telling.