Tag Archives: zombies

Movie Review: Train to Busan

It took me longer than it really should have to get around to seeing Train to Busan, and it wasn’t until I finally sat down to watch it that I realised how big a mistake that wait was. I’m a huge fan of zombie apocalypse films and when the first trailer dropped I was hooked. Then as tends to be the case, life happens, and it fell off my radar.

It wasn’t until a friend posted they’d bought a copy that I hunted it down on cable TV. Train to Busan was everything I hoped it would be and more. It hits all the right marks when it comes to horror, action-thriller, and zombies. It’s a slow burn at the beginning, introducing the main characters, setting up the premise and foreshadowing the virus that will come to destroy South Korea, but it soon kicks up the pace and ramps the tension.


Now before I go on, I’ve said before that I’m no movie aficionado – I just know what I like. So it’s on that alone I’m basing my review. Alrighty then, let’s get this show on the road… or tracks…


Train to Busan follows the story of Seok-woo, a divorced fund manager who works long hours while trying to raise his daughter, Soo-an. For her birthday, she finally convinces him to take her to see her mother in Busan. He doesn’t want to go, but his mother convinces him he must take her (just an aside, the last phonecall between the two is very cool). On the drive to the station, it’s clear some major shit is going down ­‒ ambulances and fire trucks are screaming past ‒ but the pair seem relatively safe. Once on the train, however, and just as the doors are closing, a young woman stumbles into one of the carriages with a bite wound to her leg.

And so begins the journey.

We’re introduced to the rest of the cast – a married couple expecting their first child, a baseball player and his cheerleader love interest, two elderly sisters (brilliantly played), a rich CEO, and the train driver (minor though his role is, hero he remains).

It doesn’t take long for the infection and the attacks to begin, slowly working their way through the carriages. These zombies are hard-core eating machines that move with speed, and in the confines of a train make survival all the more difficult. It soon becomes clear to those on the train that some bad, bad shit is going down outside, although most are unaware of the infection spreading inside, pretty much until it’s too late.

While most of the film takes place on the train, one pit-stop at a purported safe zone doesn’t end well for a lot of the passengers. Numbers are whittled, and characters are separated­‒ Seok-woo from his daughter, husband and pregnant wife, the sisters, and the baseball player and his new girlfriend. They have to fight through a number of zombie-infested carriages to reach their loved ones.

There’s something about horror set on trains that amps up tension – confined spaces, no way to get off, not in control of your destination. The claustrophobic feel of it lends itself well, and here is no different. It also brings out the true nature of the passengers, and what some will do in their quest for survival. Do you try to save who you can? Or, do you sacrifice others for your own survival? We see both sides of this with the remaining characters, and there are some brilliant scenes that showcase the decisions the characters make.

The two elderly sisters’ relationship is one of the most touching. Grouchy and sarcastic with each other, they are the most fun to watch, which makes the death of one (watched in all its gory glory) so traumatic. It’s here we really see the choices made, and the surviving sister understanding the wrongness of kicking uninfected passengers out of a safe carriage, sets things (almost) right.


Sacrifice is the name of the game here, and it’s not until very close to the end that we understand Seok-woo (and his company) are the harbingers of what is happening. There are no happy endings here. There is survival, but at what cost? And it’s that social commentary, woven expertly through the storyline without it being didactic, that gives Train to Busan its heart.

For those of you who balk at foreign-language films because you think subtitles take away from your viewing pleasure, put that aside and watch this movie. I had (and have) no issues with it, and it in no way lessened my appraisal.  Director Yeon Sang-ho delivered a film that entertains and makes you think, it makes you question: what would I do? The zombies are fast and voracious, single-mindedly focussed on “food”, and damn well everywhere. Excellent stuff.

For me, it’s one of the better zombie movies I’ve seen in a very long time, and if you haven’t got around to seeing it, you really should make the effort.

I give it 9 out of 10.

Running Scared

How did you spend your Friday night? I spent mine being lurched at by zombies and chased by clowns. S’true. My buddy Jason and I were crazy enough to take on Running Scared, an 8km horror-based obstacle course. That’s right, 8kms. At night.

The course was set up at the Sydney International Regatta Centre at Penrith, and trust me when I say the foot of the Blue Mountains is cold once the sun goes down, but Jase and I were ready to get our run on. Mustered around the start line were zombies shuffling about competitors, a bunch of dancing zombies (yep, it was Thriller time), and all interspersed with some iconic horror stars: Freddie Kruger, Jason Voorhees, and Pennywise, to name a few.

Me and Jase

After registering and signing two waivers (that kinda gave me pause), we were given a race number, headlamps, and directed toward the start line. At 8pm we began, first tackling a maze. I’d have to say, that was probably one of the best parts of the ‘run’. We made our way from freaky room to freaky room: a bathroom reminiscent of SAW, another that had overtones of Deliverance, and a harlequin room whose strobe lights messed with my head, but once through, it was time to run.

Now, 8kms isn’t that far really, especially on a straight course with flat ground, but that wasn’t what we faced. Scaling a pyramid of haybales (much higher than it sounds) started us off before it was time to drag ourselves across a river via a line of life-buoys (dignity and elegance be damned). We were wet now, and we were cold. It was also where I discovered the tights I’d worn weren’t really conducive to running when wet. Ah, well, it was only water.

Did I mention it was cold? But on we jogged. Now, I understand the idea of the run was to introduce a fear factor, but neither Jason nor I quite got that. At one stage, we were chatting as we walked (I can’t run 8kms non-stop, sue me) and we were suddenly distracted by two camera flashes to our left. Immediately to our right, a chorus of groans rose from a pile of zombies hidden near the track. We paused a moment then continued our chat, much to their disappointment.


Our next obstacle… well, it was more super-slide. “Keep your feet up,” one man told us. Confused, Jase and I began to slowly walk down the plastic wondering about the warning when our feet went out beneath us and in almost perfect synchronicity we fell backwards and slammed our heads against the ground. Head-lamps went flying as we sped down the hill and into a nasty looking pit of sludge. Feet up!

It was gelatine-based slime and it sucked at your sneakers as you tried to walk out of it. You couldn’t shake it free. It clung to us in all the wrong places and it felt like we’d shit our pants. We commando-crawled back up the hill (and we were filthy) before tackling our next obstacle. We had to traverse rope netting suspended between two shipping containers. Best way? Barrel-roll. Now, I don’t know what went wrong but I somehow managed to hurt my nose; on the plus side, Jason said it showed him how not to do it. Laugh we did, long and loud.

And on we ran. It was dark, the only light we had was from our headlamps. Zombies lurched from copses of trees, clowns jumped out as us, but the fear was more from what the next step would feel like in our crappy-pants than what went bump (or groan or scream) in the night.

Now, we could hear the squeals of others as they were surprised and scared, but it never really got to either of us. Were we inured to it because we’re horror writers? Nah. I think it was more exhaustion that got to me, and we really could see them coming. The obstacles did test your co-ordination and staying ability, and the 8kms (in those pants) felt like 80kms.

We waded through more slime, crawled under blood-covered obstacles and manoeuvred through a twisting canal filled with tyres. It was here that a zombie grabbed my ankle. Normally, this would have made me jump, but I was cold and tired and too busy laughing at our ungainliness.

Two and bit hours later we crossed the finish line. Tired, filthy, and still enjoying a laugh.

Overall, we had a great time and a great laugh. Not quite the fear factor we’d imagined, but that doesn’t matter. The amount of effort and attention to detail put into the event by the organisers was brilliant. The actors did an amazing job portraying their characters, and the general vibe of the whole thing was fantastic. I had a blast, and I know Jason did too.

Finish line

Things I learned:

  • Sliding down hills should be done on your arse, not your feet;
  • When barrel-rolling over rope-netting, duck your chin into your chest (no, really, this is a must);
  • Slime in your pants… just no; (and why my kids walked funny when they crapped their pants as toddlers);
  • Laughter can get you through anything, especially synchronised head-slamming;
  • Clowns are scarier when they’re alone. And silent. Just staring;
  • When the zombie apocalypse hits, I can outrun those buggers (bring it on! Ahem);
  • Muck and slime can get into places it has no right to be;
  • Nothing beats a hot shower.

My Friday night was awesome. How was yours?