Friday, January 06, 2017

The Zombies on the Train Go Argh Argh Argh

I wasn't as enamored with the South Korean "Zombies on a passenger train!" horror flick Train to Busan as some of my critical counterparts were - I mean, it's not nothing (As Muriel Heslop once screamed, "I'M NOT NOTHING!") to make a successful genre picture, and Train to Busan is just that. It's perfectly fine! It has some rousing action and terrific set-pieces and it is totally well-paced and so forth. Lord love a duck you all know I will go to town for my genre movies. But save that excellent action the film doesn't add anything much beyond what I've seen in a dozen zombie movies before - the zombies don't mean anything.

Perhaps you could argue that we've all spent too much time asking our zombies to mean something since Romero turned them into symbols of mindless consumerism in Dawn of the Dead way back when, but I always want and always will want (dammit) all of my monsters to mean something. Vampires are AIDS or Addiction or Queerness or [fill in the blank with the dozens of things Vampires have meant over the years], and Zombies should always have to meet that bar too. Or anyway they should have to meet that bar for above the norm exceptional praise.

I suppose a broad case could be made that the zombies in Train to Busan are emotional barriers standing between the leading man Seok Woo (played by Yoon Gong, who we just totally lavished an abundance of googly eyes upon in a great big gratuitous post earlier this morning) and his daughter - it is their strained relationship that structures the movie, and the film pushes the emotions to the hilt. I'm sure that relationship touched some people but I personally found it a little bit rote. There's also some rigamarole about Seok Woo's job in Finance and how evil Finance is, so maybe Corporatism was the Zombie Target? But the writers can't even keep it straight (at least not with the subtitles I got) what it is that he does, and so that never congeals into anything of substance.

Anyway my point is Train to Busan is a good action movie that I feel has for some reason gotten wildly overpraised. It reminds me of the feeling I got with Bong Joon-ho's 2006 monster movie The Host -- another perfectly adequate genre film from South Korea that I think maybe got more critical attention than it deserved because it's easier for American critics to ascribe superiority to genre when it comes via subtitles. 

Sometimes the movies - like Bong Joon-ho's film Mother, which came right after The Host and was ten times superior the film, or anything by Park Chan-wook ever - deserve the attention. And sometimes they've made the commute from distant shores just because they're perfectly well-made fine things we should very much see, especially since Hollywood only gets around to making perfectly well-made fine things once or twice a year so, if they feel like it, and so they feel novel. Train to Busan is probably the best zombie movie that came out in 2016. But we can do better.

No comments: