Seoul Station, 2016.
Directed by Sang-ho Yeon.
Starring Seung-ryong Ryu, Franciska Friede, Joon Lee, Sang-hee Lee, and Eun-kyung Shim.
South Korean city Seoul is plagued by a zombie virus in an animated prequel to horror hit Train to Busan.
Train to Busan hit UK screens to pretty much universal applause earlier this year and gave the zombie genre a much-needed shot of adrenaline, so naturally there is another movie being released that is set in the same universe to keep fans happy. However, Seoul Station is a prequel set in South Korea’s capital at the beginning of the viral outbreak and for a bit of a different spin, it’s an animated movie.
The film begins with an old man wandering around the train station in Seoul and collapsing to the floor. He has a bite mark on his neck and dies, but by the time the potential help has arrived his body has gone, only to turn up later on looking decidedly more rotten and hungry for human flesh. While this is going on a former prostitute and her boyfriend get separated after having a row about him exploiting her for cash, only for her estranged father to turn up looking for her and to team up with the boyfriend in order to find his daughter but at the same time there is panic amongst the homeless communities living in the train station as the infection brought by the old man seems to be spreading and the city falls victim to an epidemic of the dead coming back to life.
Similar in tone to George A. Romero’s Dead movies, Seoul Station is a more deliberately paced movie than Train to Busan, favouring characters and plot over all-out action and although it takes a while to set up the core characters it does pay off in the end as we get to see not only brutal zombie attacks that look more impressive in full animation than covering live actors in CGI effects but also how the effects of separation and loss impact on the characters we meet. Being animated, and despite the animation being nothing short of excellent, you don’t really get a flavour of the director’s style or any sort of flair except for a few busy camera movements so a bit more care has been taken over the writing and, a few dodgy literal translations in the dialogue aside, the story is fairly strong and easy to follow. Commentaries on the economy, the homeless, the authorities and personal relationships are there for all to see and, like the best zombie movies, can be taken as sub-text or ignored in favour of waiting for the next kill scene and in that sense Seoul Station feels like a natural fit for the genre when it could have gone for the easy option of brainless zombie attacks with little or no substance, and as we know by watching countless direct-to-DVD ‘…of the Dead’ knock-offs, that soon gets very dull and uninteresting.
As a companion piece to Train to Busan, Seoul Station works very well in setting up the zombie plague scenario and, much like the differences in Romero’s movies, offers a different tone than what has gone before. Despite the story taking place across a city rather than on a train the scope feels smaller and more personal, thanks to concentrating on the three core characters, and there are a few neat plot twists that you won’t see coming that add an extra bit of excitement, which the film needs because at 92 minutes long the sombre tone and sociopolitical messages do start weigh it down and it becomes a bit of a slog at around the hour mark. Nevertheless, Seoul Station looks fantastic, has a story to tell and is worthy of your attention if Train to Busan reignited your passion for zombies but as it is a prequel it is best to watch it first if you are planning a marathon because the focus on characters instead of action may be a little jarring if you do it the other way around.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★